2017 October 23
How to Stop Brexit
AR (pending Amazon
Yes, we can, says Nick Clegg in his readable and
persuasive little book. He recalls the reasons and motives behind
the Leave victory in the 2016 Brexit referendum and marshals the
case for reversing the decision before it is too late. For my part,
I find the case cogent and convincing.
Essentially, Brexit is
far more complicated and damaging than voters ever imagined when
they made their decision last year. Misled by a shameless and
mendacious propaganda campaign, many simply did what came naturally
and voted out of a vague sense of national pride. Most of them had
no clue about the economic and political complications that make
Brexit, in any rational assessment, one of the worst policy
decisions ever made in the British Isles.
Nick Clegg was
punished already in 2015 for his unfortunate coalition with the
Conservatives in government. As a consistent and prominent supporter
of EU membership from the start, he found himself on the losing side
in the 2016 battle for British votes. Admirably, he has stuck to his
guns and refused to drink the Kool-Aid that is currently poisoning
the Conservative government led by Theresa May.
As a former
leader of the Liberal Democrats, Clegg is so mortified by the
electoral demise of his former party that he now advises his readers
to vote Labour, in the vague and poorly founded hope that a
government led by Jeremy Corbyn might find a way to reverse Brexit.
Such a government would be far more likely to keep Britain in the
single market and the customs union, which is a minimum condition
for national prosperity in the foreseeable future, but it would
probably also do great damage on other fronts, so this looks like
The practical advice Clegg urges toward the end
of his tract is sound. British voters who are unhappy at the
prospect of Brexit should join a political party, attend political
meetings, badger their MP, make their views known, and add their
weight to a mass movement to demonstrate that the 2016 referendum
decision is no longer valid. Democracy was never intended to mean
one citizen, one vote, one time.
How to Stop Brexit .. by Nick Clegg
2017 October 22
Solar Physics Puzzle
The Sun seems to contain less metal than
expected. Its mass is about 2 billion Yg, most of it H and He, with
about 2% of heavier elements (such as C, N, O, Fe, all of which
astronomers call metals). But about 10 out of the 40 million Yg of
metals our models predict seem to be missing.
We study the Sun using light and sound. Spectroscopists pass solar
photons through prisms, diffracting it into barcodes for the
different elements. Helioseismologists look at sound vibrations on
the solar surface.
Perhaps the metals are not behaving as
expected. Opacity is a measure of how much energy can pass through a
given material. Heavier elements are more opaque than H and He. For
the helioseismology results to hold up, the opacity of the metals in
the Sun needs to be higher.
Atom have a nucleus surrounded by
electrons that orbit at precisely defined energy levels. In the high
temperatures and pressures of the solar core, the energy levels
shift and expand, increasing opacity. We need to observe atoms
interacting with light under high temperatures and pressures.
A team used the Sandia National Labs Z machine to zap a small
iron disk with a flash of energy intense enough to resemble the
solar interior, with temperatures and pressures high enough to
really excite the Fe atoms. The experiments show the hot metal has a
higher opacity than expected.
We can get a deeper
view of the Sun by observing the neutrinos created in its interior.
Some 1% of them are born in core fusion processes involving atoms of
C, N, and O. Observing CNO neutrinos would help us understand the
AI Go Supremacy
A mere 19 months after AlphaGo dethroned the
world's top human Go player, AlphaGo Zero taught itself to beat
AlphaGo. By freeing AI from human knowledge, the breakthrough
removes a primary limit on how smart machines can become.
AlphaGo was taught to play the game using first
supervised learning, where it was fed 100,000 top amateur Go games
and taught to imitate them, and then reinforcement learning, where
it played itself and learned to play more consistently.
AlphaGo Zero began knowing only the rules of Go and played games
against itself. At first it played randomly but soon it improved.
After 3 days and 4.9 million training games, AlphaGo Zero played
AlphaGo and won 100 games to 0.
Photograph: Richard Carson/Reuters
Carter, George HW Bush, George W Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton
Deep From The Heart: The One America Appeal, Texas A&M University
Fundraiser for those affected by recent hurricanes
Geert Vanden Wijngaert
Brussels, October 20
"Ich glaube, dass in der
klar ist, was jetzt noch
zu geschehen hat."
Imperial War Museums
British 3.7" AA
gun and ATS
spotter, England, 1942
see such images and say:
"Ah, the good old days!"
"Xi Jinping sits on top
of the Communist Party,
on top of China, and
China sits on top
Somewhere in Hydra
waves from collision
Deep Space Gateway
Last Brexit To Paradise
Theresa May and her cabinet
are contingency planning for
no deal with Brussels before the
UK leaves the EU in March 2019.
No deal would also mean no
transition period. Hard Brexit
fans cheer the prospect as
only way to break free.
AR Free of
life as we know it
— free of this mortal coil.
A survey found that
42% of respondents think
it is right to leave the EU,
compared with 47% who think
wrong. This is the biggest
gap in favour of remaining
EU since the
Sir Robert Syms
MP for Poole
2017 October 21
Alexis de Tocqueville was a humanist.
The brilliance of people as they are liberated by new ideas makes his case for
democracy. Their gifts are highly individual.
of minds and spirits is a sunlight that falls across the whole
landscape of civilization. Tocqueville stood at a place in the
evolution of culture where there was both a continuous expansion of
literacy and learning and a vast population they had not yet
Impatience with the energy and originality of the
mind is inimical to poetry, eloquence, wit, imagination, and depth
of thought. The impulse is historically expressed as social
engineering. Armies of ideal workers will compete successfully
against whomever for whatever into an endless future, at profound
cost to themselves.
The humanities do not prepare ideal helots. But they are ideal
for preparing imaginative and innovative
contributors to a full and generous national life. Politicians who
attack public higher education as too expensive have made it so for
electoral or ideological reasons.
2017 October 20
David Bentley Hart is an Eastern Orthodox
theologian and philosopher. He says God is being, goodness and
truth, and to be is to depend on God. Hart says this view is that of
just about every significant theistic philosopher in human history.
Hart sees the progressive secularization of Western culture as a
long march toward nihilism. Secularism, capitalism and
individualism, consumerism and voluntarism, scientism and
materialism all effect the triumph of the will in human affairs.
Hart has no problem with science, with quantum mechanics and
evolution and ecological degradation and the value of nonhuman
animals. His problem is with the transformation of scientific
inquiry into a metaphysics that denies meaning to any further
questions. He calls scientism a barbarous fundamentalism regarding
knowledge or inquiry.
Hart remains a distinguished public
theologian in a country that no longer recognizes them. We are
living in the twilight of an ancient civilization. Christendom is
gone, and the Christian culture of the West seems destined for slow
2017 October 19
America v China
China, while rising alongside India, has
done so less responsibly, at times undermining the international
China's provocative actions in the South
China Sea directly challenge international law and norms. We will
not shrink when China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring
countries and disadvantages the United States and our friends.
China's model of economic development in smaller countries
saddles those nations with enormous levels of debt. The United
States will collaborate with India to create a region of peace,
stability, and growing prosperity.
America will pursue a free
and open policy across the Indo-Pacific map. India, an important
democracy, pins the western side of that map. Japan, another
important and strong democracy with whom we have strong security
relationships, pins the eastern side. Australia covers the South
Pacific, and America defines the region at its eastern edge.
America will never have the same relationship with non-democratic
China that we can have with a major democracy.
Brexit — Expect No Deal
In a letter organized by the Leave Means
Leave campaign, former UK cabinet ministers Owen Paterson, Lord
Lawson, John Redwood, and Peter Lilley call on Theresa May to walk away
from Brexit talks with no deal if the EU refuses to discuss trade.
German parliament CDU/CSU group vice chair Michael Fuchs
confirmed that money was the major sticking point in the
negotiations: "A figure of .. between €100 billion and maybe €60
billion should be the right point .. €20 billion is definitely not
UK immigration minister Brandon Lewis: "We do value
and we want EU citizens to stay .. EU citizens have the right to
continue to stay in the United Kingdom .. British citizens have that
reciprocal right when they are living abroad in Europe as well."
The Trump Doctrine
Thomas L. Friedman
The Trump Doctrine is very simple:
"Obama built it. I broke it. You fix it."
Trump wants to do
too much at once without any real preparation or planning. He makes
big decisions without consulting experts and without connecting the
● Pulls out of the nuclear deal with Iran but needs a
nuclear deal with North Korea
● Needs to stabilize Iraq, Syria, and
Afghanistan but gives up on help from Iran
● Wants to end the trade
imbalance with China but tears up the TPP trade deal
● Pulls out of
the Paris climate accord and loses out on the green energy market
Restricts funding for birth control yet seeks to reduce the influx
None of these dots connect. Trump has not
thought this through.
AR How long
must we suffer the Trump—Brexit fallout from ignorant, stubborn
voters in the US-UK world?
2017 October 18
Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately
Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success
of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era
China will see the basic realization of
socialist modernization by 2035 after 15 years of hard work.
1 From 2020 to 2035, the CPC will build
on the foundation created by the moderately prosperous society with
a further 15 years of hard work to see that socialist modernization
is basically realized.
2035 to 2050, the CPC will, building on having basically achieved
modernization, work hard for a further 15 years and develop China
into a great modern socialist country.
By mid-century, the
following goals will have been met:
— New heights reached in
every dimension of material, political, cultural and ethical,
social, and ecological advancement
— Modernization of China's
system and capacity for governance
— China a global leader in
terms of overall national strength and international influence
Common prosperity for everyone
— Chinese people happier, safer,
The Chinese nation will become a proud and
active member of the community of nations.
Brexit — Saboteurs
As the bleakness of the Brexit dilemma
becomes more apparent, the search for scapegoats begins. Brexiteers
target the EU but they are now also rounding on the enemy within:
the British people and institutions they accuse of undermining
The search for saboteurs gives off a whiff of
desperation and defeat. Framing the issue as the people versus the
elite backfires — many prominent Leavers are members of the British
elite. Roughly half the country still thinks Brexit is a mistake.
Brexit — Hypocrisy
For decades, politicians and commentators
in Britain ignored, misrepresented, or sneered at the European
project. Now the UK is on its way out, people are suddenly waving EU
Many of those now fighting for continued membership of
the single market and customs union seem unable to shed a
fundamentally Eurosceptic perspective.
and media have misrepresented and mocked Europe for decades. Few
remainers ever made an unconditionally positive case for the EU in
public. Hardly anyone seriously challenged the myths and
misconceptions that dominate the British debate.
Maybe the EU
is flawed, imperfect, in need of reform. The UK is imperfect too.
Brexit — Verdict
The OECD verdict:
— The UK growth rate
will fall to 1% next year
— A disorderly exit from the EU in 2019
would hurt trade and reduce growth
— A reversal of the Brexit
decision would have a significant positive impact on UK growth
Low productivity and poor export performance leave the UK too weak
to prosper outside the EU.
2017 October 17
Two Neutron Stars Collide
The New York Times
"It's the greatest fireworks show in
LIGO executive director David Reitze
can't think of a similar situation in the field of science in my
lifetime, where a single event provides so many staggering insights
about our universe."
LIGO Scientific Collaboration member Daniel
"Joy for all."
LIGO Scientific Collaboration
spokesman David Shoemaker
Astronomers have seen and heard a
pair of neutron stars collide, giving them their first view of how
the gold and other heavy metals in the universe were created. Such
collisions spew out gamma rays, X‑rays, and radio waves in what
astrophysicist Brian David Metzger in 2010 called a kilonova.
On August 17, a LIGO detector recorded a signal and sent out an
alert. Transformed into sound, the signal was a 100 s chirp ending
in a sudden whoop to 1 kHz. Meanwhile, the Fermi Space Telescope
recorded a brief burst of gamma rays 2 s after the LIGO chirp and
sent out its own alert. The GRB lasted about 2 s. The signals told a tale of a pair of neutron stars spiraling around each
The kilonova fireball showed up as a new bluish
pinprick of light in the outer regions of NGC 4993, a galaxy about
130 million light years away. The merging neutron stars were
probably relics of massive stars that had died in supernova
explosions some 11 billion years ago. These neutron stars were about
1.1 and 1.6 times as massive as the sun.
As they approached
each other, orbiting a thousand times a second, tidal forces bulged
their surfaces outward. Their guts were ejected and formed a fat
doughnut around them.
At the moment they touched, a shock
wave squeezed more stuff out of their polar regions, but the
doughnut and extreme magnetic fields confined the material into a
pair of fast jets emitting gamma rays. As the jets slowed down, they
became visible in X-rays and then radio waves.
The big splat
poured out neutrons into space, where they transmuted surrounding
atoms into heavy elements. The radioactivity of these elements kept
the fireball hot. Over a few days, an amount of gold up to 100 times
the mass of the Earth may have been blown into space.
discovery filled fills the gap in our story of how the elements were
cooked up from primordial H and He. Stars and supernovas can cook
the elements up to Fe, but heavier elements need a different
A blizzard of papers is being
published — one in The Physical Review Letters has some 3,500
LIGO found it first, on 17 August, in the
constellation Hydra. Gravitational waves and a burst of gamma
radiation came from a collision between two neutron stars.
It marks the first proof that neutron star mergers emit gamma
ray bursts, the first sighting of heavy elements being formed, and
the first measurement of universal expansion using gravitational
The collision was observed in wavelengths across the
EM spectrum from radio to gamma rays. Images from the Hubble Space
Telescope show us the resulting cloud of hot plasma and gas.
The gravitational waves produced in this collision also revealed
how fast the universe is expanding. The waves confirm previous
We now know we have been witnessing neutron
star mergers for as long as we have observed short gamma ray bursts.
LIGO will see many more.
2017 October 16
We will return American astronauts to the
Moon, not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build
the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond. The
Moon will be a stepping stone, a training ground, a venue to
strengthen our commercial and international partnerships as we
refocus America's space program toward human space exploration.
Neel V. Patel
NASA already has plans to go to the Moon.
The first of a series of manned missions to lunar orbit will launch
in 2022. But the cost of maintaining and operating a lunar base
would be astronomical.
NASA aims to develop the Deep Space
Gateway, a crewed space station deployed between the Earth and the
Moon as a staging point for deep space missions. It will be up above
the lunar gravity well. The lunar surface is an unnecessary detour
if the aim is to go to Mars.
All crewed missions divert funding from scientifically more
productive robot missions. Human space exploration is best
accomplished when the robot support systems are mature. Otherwise
the first space tragedy will set back progress for decades.
The Brexit right has no plan beyond a desire
to turn Britain into a Randian dystopia where regulations vanish and
the state withers. It has no policy beyond a nostalgic hope that
Britain will sail across the wide blue oceans and conquer new
markets as our imperial ancestors conquered them before. This is
religion, not politics.
The Bright wingnuts have no allies,
only enemies. Many of them have been fighting their opponents in the
Tory party for 30 years. The wounds are too deep, the scars are too
thick, for them to admit now the other side may have a point.
Beyond the desire to create an isolated state in the Atlantic,
where welfare and regulations are slashed and climate change denied,
is a more primal impulse. They cannot concede an inch to enemies.
Compromise, even a compromise with reality, feels like a betrayal.
But as propagandists the Brexiteers are anything but stupid.
They have been the most brilliantly successful manipulators of
public opinion in modern British history. Despite the collapse in
the pound and living standards, despite the descent of the
negotiations into the mire, not one prominent supporter of Brexit
has admitted to the smallest doubt.
Battle of Brexit
The outcome of the UK general election in June
has changed everything. When Theresa May first said she intended to
withdraw the UK from the EU single market and customs union, she
also said she wanted to keep strategic sectors of the UK economy
inside the single market and customs union. Britain would have its
cake and eat it.
May put together her approach without much
input from her cabinet or British business. Her fall has blown open
the politics of Brexit within her cabinet. The contradictions have
been exposed as rival factions fight for supremacy.
cabinet faction led by Philip Hammond wants to salvage as much as
possible of UK trading ties with the EU. Boris Johnson leads the
cabinet faction agitating for a hard Brexit. The divisions make it
unlikely that the cabinet can reach agreement.
the outcome of the June 2016 referendum is the will of the people.
But public opinion is unstable. If the polling numbers move against
Brexit, the political class will surely take note and abandon the
whole disastrous project.
A Great American Novel
The idea that rational men are not in charge of
running the universe recurs through the 29 parts of the 880 pages of
4321. Years in the making, Paul Auster's 17th novel appeared just as
the author turned 70. It is both a panorama of American life between
1947 and 1971 and a vastly magnified quartet, in which the same
smart kid, Archie Ferguson from New Jersey, grows up in four
different ways, with four separate destinies.
Grandson of a
penniless migrant whose stumbling Yiddish replies at Ellis Island
("Ikh hob fargessen") turn him, by chance, into Ichabod Ferguson,
Archie enters the world in March 1947, a month after his creator.
After this prologue, the four versions of Ferguson are woven into a
Bildungsroman that stretches from infancy to early adulthood.
The parallel Fergusons grow up in the same, shared time. Their
paths never stray far from plausibility for a bright Jewish boy in
the Newark suburbs. Auster makes them writers in assorted genres, to
scatter shards of autobiography among his parallel worlds. Each
Ferguson learns that reason governs neither the state nor the heart.
4321 by Paul Auster
2017 October 15
Beijing is preparing for the 19th national congress
of the Communist Party of China in the Great Hall of the People on
Tiananmen Square, starting Wednesday.
Xi Jinping, 64, is sure
to continue as party general secretary and national president. The
congress is a further opportunity for him to consolidate his power.
Last year the party added Core Leader to his other titles. This
year the congress may celebrate Xi Jinping Thought — an honour
previously reserved for Mao Zedong.
Xi aims to preside over
the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. This China dream is
hugely popular: 92% of citizens say China is on the right track.
Trump Cuts Health Care
Amy Davidson Sorkin
President Donald Trump staged a
signing ceremony for an executive order designed to push people
into junk insurance plans. He said he will withhold the subsidies
that the government currently pays insurance companies. Both moves
recklessly target vulnerable Americans.
Trump said he
defunded the subsidies because paying them went against the will of
Congress. In effect, Congress had promised the money but now wants
the right to withhold it on a regular basis. This is something any
congressional majority interested in avoiding chaos in the insurance
markets could have fixed.
The false stories congressional
Republicans drew of Obamacare fed partisan demands for Trump to
savage it. The Republican party made a destructive promise that
Trump has been eager to keep. Party leaders were quick with their
The Trump administration has rewritten rules to
let plans omit birth control. It has cut programs that help people
sign up for Obamacare and hidden information about affordable plans.
At the signing ceremony, Trump said: "I'm only signing it because it
Donald Trump's decision to go it alone with
rapid fire announcements on healthcare and Iran reflects his boiling
frustration with the limits of presidential power.
Chris Murphy: "Trump's decision to stop ACA payments is nuclear
grade bananas, a temper tantrum that sets the entire health system
Trump's threat to terminate the Iran deal puts him
at odds with secretary of state Rex Tillerson and defense secretary
White House chief of staff John Kelly: "The
Congress has been frustrating to him .. in his view, the solutions
Replika is a chat bot that gradually moulds its traits and style
of speech around each user so as to win trust. It is just one of a
host of electronic angels and demons coders are building for us.
This technology poses new risks for our freedom and dignity.
We need to decide what is
acceptable, before it is decided for us. Imagine yourself as a cloud
of data moving through the world. Every time you do anything, you
shed more data that can be sucked up and used to understand what
makes you tick.
These tools will undermine what it means to
be an individual. Corporations will use their new powers to
manipulate our psychology for their own gain. In a world where
machines can predict and sculpt our deepest desires, free will is
Cambridge Analytica used AI to help elect
Donald Trump. Members of the Quantified Self movement log every
aspect of their lives with fitness trackers, smartphone sensors, and
other widgets. Replika will wake up on millions of devices next
2017 October 14
The Iranian dictatorship .. remains the
world's leading state sponsor of terrorism .. It develops, deploys,
and proliferates missiles .. It harasses American ships .. It
imprisons Americans .. And it launches cyberattacks ..
Realizing the gravity of the situation, the United States and the
United Nations Security Council sought, over many years, to stop
Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons with a wide array of strong
But the previous administration lifted
these sanctions, just before what would have been the total collapse
of the Iranian regime, through the deeply controversial 2015 nuclear
deal with Iran. ..
Iran is not living up to the spirit of the
deal. So today .. I am announcing a new strategy ..
1 We will work with our allies to
counter the regime's destabilizing activity and support for
terrorist proxies in the region.
We will place additional sanctions on the regime to block their
financing of terror.
3 We will
address the regime's proliferation of missiles and weapons that
threaten its neighbors, global trade, and freedom of navigation.
4 We will deny the regime all paths
to a nuclear weapon.
We cannot afford .. to dismantle a
nuclear agreement that is working and delivering .. Iran is
implementing all its nuclear-related commitments .. There have been
no violations of any of the commitments included in the agreement.
The international community .. has clearly indicated that the
deal is and will continue to be in place. The European Union
continues to fully support the Iran nuclear deal, and .. is
committed to preserve it, to the benefit of all, including the
2017 October 13
Trump Can Nuke Alone
The New York Times
Does President Trump understand, and
can he responsibly manage, the most destructive nuclear arsenal on
He has threatened to totally destroy North Korea. He
has reportedly pressed for a massive buildup in the American nuclear
arsenal. And soon he will decide for or against the Iran nuclear
Senator Bob Corker trusts Rex Tillerson, Jim Mattis,
and John Kelly to help "separate our country from chaos" — a searing
indictment from a respected voice on national security issues.
Congress is considering legislation to bar the president from
launching a first nuclear strike without a declaration of war by
Congress. Today he could unleash a nuclear war within minutes, by
his word alone.
How Many Nukes?
When President Trump was shown a graph
tracking the dramatic reduction in American and Russian nuclear
weapons over recent decades, he pointed to the peak year 1969, when
America had 32,000 nuclear weapons, and said he wanted that many
Officials explained that the roughly 4,000 weapons
in the current US strategic arsenal are better able to carry out
their missions than the much larger force half a century ago. As
other national security issues were brought up, Pentagon officials
were rattled by his lack of understanding on all fronts.
Trump is not interested in learning. His idolatry of military
officers is well known, but less noted is his idolatry of big guns
for their own sake. He wants military parades as a show of strength.
He told his aides he wanted 32,000 nuclear weapons because that was
the largest number of nuclear weapons a president ever had.
Forget about the budget or why we need so many nuclear weapons.
And forget IQ — America's top diplomat called Trump a fucking moron.
Brexit — Deadlock
Michel Barnier: "Here we are again. The same
two people." Then he switched to French. He reiterated the three
things on which there was no real progress. Citizens rights.
Northern Ireland. The financial settlement. He tried to offer a
glimmer of hope: "Decisive progress is possible within two months."
The last time someone had said "It will be all over by Christmas"
was in 1914.
Ein harter Brexit ohne Austrittsabkommen wird immer wahrscheinlicher
AR Soon time to pack
2017 October 12
Ludwig Wittgenstein is seen as the model of a
great philosopher. He is obscure and intense, severe and mystical,
charismatic and strange, driven and tragic, with his difficulty
bound up with his character and his life. Wittgenstein saw
philosophy not just as a vocation, but as a way of life.
in 1889, Wittgenstein came from a wealthy but dysfunctional Viennese
family. He began as an engineer and ended as a fellow in philosophy
at Cambridge. He published only one book in his lifetime, the
Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus (1921). He left
manuscripts and notes later published in various forms. The central work
is the posthumous Philosophical Investigations (1953).
Tractatus, Wittgenstein asked what must be the case if we are able
to have true and false thoughts of the world. His answer was that
the world, language, and thought must share a common logical form.
But later he came to abandon and replace much
of this conception.
In the Philosophical Investigations,
Wittgenstein aims to wean us from the idea of intrinsically
representational and meaningful psychological states or processes.
Because we think language is fundamentally about naming things, we
think that psychological concepts must be names of things in an
inner space, so language is really private.
meaning only gets going in and through the shared practices and
interactions of living beings and is only visible in their lives and
activity. In the beginning is not the word but the deed. Just as
gold does not explain the value of money, thoughts do not explain
the meaning of words. We do not mirror reality. We are enmeshed in
„Das Volk ist derjenige Teil des Staates,
nicht weiß, was er will.“
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Government by the worst
people among us, or
the most inept kind
having more for
public services, Brexit Britain
will have to
spend tens of
billions it doesn't have on
new quangos —
Guide To Presidential Etiquette
If you are the POTUS, you may:
● Mock a foreign leader with
a demeaning nickname and
threaten his country with
AfD is the German UKIP,
another tribal atavism:
madness of Brexit;
AfD can do worse
If President Trump refuses to
certify that Iran is complying
with the nuclear deal he will
be making his most feckless
foreign policy decision yet
"Theresa May can restore
some of her credibility by
Boris Johnson in
charge of Brexit."
AR That would add
to the proceedings!
Not quite for everyone
"Nobody has yet said they
disagree with government
Boris is doing what
Boris has always done, adding
to the gaiety of
UK foreign secretary
Boris Johnson recited part of a
colonialist poem in front of
dignitaries while on an official
visit to Myanmar in
In the Shwedagon Pagoda, the
most sacred Buddhist
Yangon, he started reciting
The Road to Mandalay
by Rudyard Kipling.
The UK ambassador to Myanmar
before he got to:
Bloomin' idol made o' mud
Wot they called the
Great Gawd Budd
2017 October 11
A German Prophet
Götz Kubitschek, a tall black-clad figure
with a well-trimmed goatee and the upright posture of a military
officer, is 47 and lives in a village in eastern Germany. He calls
himself a conservative, battling to preserve German identity, which
he says is threatened by immigration and the alienating effects of
modernity. He has warned of the looming demise of the German Volk
and has connections to some of the most radical AfD politicians.
European nationalists promote a kind of New Right rainbow
coalition, in which sovereign states steadfastly maintain their
ethnic and cultural identities within a larger western ideal. New
Right thinkers dream of establishing a common front that would unite
opponents of liberalism on both extremes of the political spectrum.
They say German self-hatred must be overcome for Germany to be great
Kubitschek says that in a time of great peril a leader
must act beyond the law. He says the consequences of a revolt are
less troubling than the threat of what would happen if the Volk
lacked the courage to defend itself from cultural erosion. Recently
Finis Germania, a book by Rolf Peter Sieferle.
Finis Germania — blog 2017 July 12
Brexit — Update
UK prime minister Theresa May, who voted
Remain in the 2016 referendum, was asked how she would vote in a new
referendum: "What I did last time around was I looked at everything
and came to a judgment and I'd do exactly the same this time
European Council president Donald Tusk: "If it turns
out that the talks continue at a slow pace, and that sufficient
progress hasn't been reached, then together with our UK friends we
will have to think about where we are heading."
Philip Hammond: "The government and the Treasury are prepared. We
are planning for every outcome."
We can still turn HMS Britannia around and escape the Brexit
2017 October 10
We are experiencing kakistocracy in
America. The Constitution prohibits anything of value other than a
salary going to a president from the federal government or the
states. Trump pushed for more favorable property taxes. Ivanka Trump
and Jared Kushner have sought to leverage their White House status
for business gain. A string of Trump cabinet members and White House
staffers have been caught spending staggering sums of taxpayer
dollars to charter jets.
World stability is endangered by the
embarrassing triangle involving secretary of state Rex Tillerson,
secretary of defense James Mattis, and Trump. Within the last week,
Trump undercut Tillerson via tweet, taking diplomatic talks with
North Korea off the table while his secretary of state was in China.
Then Tillerson reportedly called the president a moron. Mattis then
told the Senate that America should continue to certify the Iran
nuclear deal, after which the president undercut his credibility by
decertifying the deal.
Donald Trump campaigned by promising
to run government like a business. Ot the 602 key policy positions
in the executive requiring Senate confirmation, only 142 have been
filled and 289 have not even had a nominee chosen. The record here
is starkly worse than under the previous four presidents.
John Kelly left his position at Homeland Security for the White
House in July. The vacancy he left remains. There are still no
nominees for undersecretary for national protection, undersecretary
for science and technology, or assistant secretaries for policy or
immigration. The same pattern holds true for almost every other
cabinet department or key agency.
The record of the Trump
administration in its first nine months is abysmal. Not one of the
big goals set by the president or majority congressional leaders has
been achieved. The administration is inept, venal, and reckless.
2017 Nobel Prize in Economics
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Richard H. Thaler has
incorporated psychologically realistic assumptions into analyses of
economic decision making. He has shown how limited rationality,
social preferences, and lack of self-control systematically affect
individual decisions as well as market outcomes.
● Limited rationality
— Thaler developed the theory of mental accounting, explaining how
people simplify financial decision making by creating separate
accounts in their minds, and showed how aversion to losses can
explain the endowment effect.
● Social preferences
— Thaler showed how consumers may stop firms from raising prices in
periods of high demand, but not in times of rising costs, and
devised a tool to measure attitudes to fairness in different groups
of people around the world.
● Lack of self-control
— Thaler analyzed self-control problems using a planner-doer model
to describe the internal tension between long-term planning and
short-term doing, and demonstrated how nudging may help people
exercise better self-control.
Thaler has built a bridge
between the economic and psychological analyses of individual
decision making. Behavioural economics has had a profound impact on
many areas of economic research and policy.
Living With God
Saint Augustine wrote his Confessions in
about 397 CE, a few years after he had become a Christian bishop. In
the first nine books, Augustine describes his life from his birth to
his conversion in Milan and the death of his mother. In books 10 and
11, he includes philosophical thoughts on the nature of memory and
time. In the last two books, Augustine plunges into the Hebrew
In her new translation, Sarah Ruden renames God
as a master. This change brings Augustine to life. In relation to
God, Augustine experiences all the ups and downs of a household
slave in relation to his master. Augustine changes in his relation
to God, over the years, from slave to repentant son to lover. Ruden
conveys a living sense of the being before whom we find him
transfixed in prayer.
Augustine uses medical terminology in
books 6 and 7 to describe the last stages of his conversion.
Here the crack of the whip is silent. Nor does truth dawn suddenly
for him in the garish manner of conventional conversion narratives.
Instead, we enter the gentle light of a Roman sickroom, as God, the
supremely tender doctor, tiptoes in to place his hand on Augustine.
Augustine has a gift for miniaturizing sin. Examining his
motives for robbing a pear tree, he isolates the possibility that he
had acted gratuitously, simply to show that he could do whatever he
wished. By the time the bishop approached his sexual temptations, he
looks at his sins as if through the diminishing end of a telescope.
They are disturbing because they are so small but so tenacious.
2017 October 9
Trump: "Maybe it's the calm before the storm."
Reporter: "What storm Mr President?"
Trump: "You'll find out."
The New York Times
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
chair Republican Senator Bob Corker says President Trump is treating
his office like a reality show, with reckless threats toward other
countries that could lead to World War III: "He concerns me. He would
have to concern anyone who cares about our nation .. the White House
has become an adult day care center .. every single day at the White
House, it's a situation of trying to contain him."
could play a key role if Trump follows through on his threat to
decertify the Iran nuclear deal. On Trump: "I know .. in several
instances, he's hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were
underway by tweeting things out .. the vast majority of our caucus
understands .. the volatility that we're dealing with and the
tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep
him in the middle of the road."
Corker, 65, is a former mayor
of Chattanooga who became wealthy in construction. He says the
commander in chief is not fully aware of the power of his office: "I
don't think he appreciates that when the president of the United
States speaks and says the things that he does, the impact that it
has around the world."
New cochlear implants will let users stream
audio directly from their iPhone into their cochlear nerve. Apple
and Cochlear have made the connectivity available for any hearing
implants that use the Nucleus 7 sound processor. The audio signal is
highly compressed, but the technology is likely to be adopted by
consumer audio devices. Technology giants are betting heavily on
audio interfaces becoming the norm in the future. We will wear
transparent ear buds that let us hear the world around us while also
working online through our phone.
2017 October 8
A German Patriot
Klaus Riedelsdorf is a German patriot. He
wants his country back. Islam is an ideology, he says, and an
Islamic takeover of Germany is the greatest danger the country has
faced since the Cold War.
He cites three fiascos: the euro
fiasco, where Germany ended up paying to bail out other countries;
the environment fiasco, where Germany renounced nuclear power; and
the refugee fiasco, where Angela Merkel has let in a million-strong
"army with stones" since 2015.
Riedelsdorf is a member of the AfD party. He is happy with equal
rights for gays and women, but he asks whether what homosexuals do
with each other really needs to be taught in German schools or
whether gender-neutral neologisms really need to be adopted to
Riedelsdorf on political correctness: "It
makes no sense to force people to think this or that when they don't
believe it. They will do the opposite as soon as they can."
On WW2: "My grandfather and three of my father's brothers fought in
the war. They did what they were told to do, as any soldier in the
world would. They tried to be honorable. The war was a crime, we
know that, but soldiers did not commit the crimes. That was the SS.
We need a differentiated view of the Third Reich."
AR I can understand and even sympathize
with his views — except that patriotism is nationalism and
nationalism is a tribal atavism that must be damped if not squashed
in the sort of globalized world that I see as our only hope in the
2017 October 7
Jeremy Corbyn: "The next Labour government
will transform Britain by genuinely putting power in the hands of
Socialism has come in three main varieties:
autocratic, populist, and social democratic. Autocratic socialism
was a catastrophe. Populist socialism has never worked economically.
Social democracy has been a triumph.
democrats understand that any successful program for a party in
— avoid the lure of magical thinking on budget
constraints for government
— recognise the crucial role of
incentives in shaping human behaviour
— thoroughly internalise
the importance of a stable institutional framework
that the private sector plays a leading role in the economy
Populist socialism is undisciplined on public finances, unconcerned
about incentives, contemptuous of property rights, hostile to the
private sector, and antagonistic to the constraining institutions.
AR People power means putting
pleasure now over pain later.
Deep Tory Problems
Manchester was a theatre of delusion for the Conservative party.
Hollowed out intellectually, the party has retreated to the comfort
zone of obsession with Europe. The Eurosceptics have released a
toxin into their party which is poisoning their politics.
Tory party has the leader it deserves. The conservatism of Theresa
May consists of some strong ideas weakly held and is reluctantly
liberal on social issues, prone to protectionism in economics, and
patriotic in character.
The Tory party contains dissent. Few
Tory leaders were ever ideologues. A party that pursued a policy of
imperial protection before switching to the advocacy of free trade
without ceasing to be the Conservatives was never defined by either.
Passion on Europe has turned the party into a pressure group.
Europe is their only issue and it is shattering them. Some of them
regard Boris Johnson as their saviour, forgetting that he and his
kind are to blame for their move to the fringe.
AR My published comment under this
article drew by far the most recommendations, so far as I can see,
among many hundreds of comments: "Brexit is an expression of an
unwanted disease. Most British voters who suffered from it didn't
even realise its virulence. They thought detesting foreigners — who
begin at Calais — was a patriotic eccentricity. In fact that
detestation is toxic mind rot."
2017 October 6
I grew up surrounded by books and Oxford was
always on my radar. The Rhodes scholarship financed my graduate work
at Oxford from 2012 to 2014. It was really chance that led me to
take the All Souls exam and win a fellowship.
Must Fall campaign began in South Africa and came to Oxford in 2015.
It has sparked debate about Oxford and its
institutions. The scholarship is a kind of brand and scholars are
quite sensitive to its reputation.
I knew little about Cecil
Rhodes when I won the scholarship. I backed the campaign partly
because of its history and partly because I knew some of the black
students who had launched the campaign and wanted to help.
The movement aims to decolonialize curricula, to help correct the
underrepresentation of black students and academics, and to relocate
the statue of Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes House is not happy with its
methods and language but I hope things will change.
I see no
contradiction between accepting the scholarship and criticizing the
man who financed it. On the contrary, I think it my duty to be aware
of the crimes and contribute to their reparation. The statue should
be put in a museum.
● Rhodes Scholarships
go back to 1902 and colonial capitalist Cecil Rhodes. They are
awarded only to members of certain nations. The Rhodes Trust aims
"to identify and develop leaders" and has funded around 8,000
scholars so far.
● All Souls College
in Oxford was founded in 1438 and contains only fellows. Its
entrance exam for Oxford students is billed as the hardest in the
world: only 2 per year win a generously funded 7-year fellowship.
AR At Oxford, between my third and
fourth degrees, I felt tempted by the All Souls exam — but somehow
never sat it.
2017 October 5
Three men won the Nobel Prize for Physics for
their discovery of gravitational waves. But what of the other
scientists who contributed to the LIGO project?
when Nobel Prizes are awarded in physics, chemistry, and physiology
or medicine, critics note that they are an absurd and anachronistic
way of recognizing scientists for their work.
Nobels have drawn controversy since their inception. Beyond who
should have received the prize and who should not, the problem is
that the Nobels reward three individuals at most for each of the
scientific prizes in any given year. And modern science is a team
The price of reform is low, and the cost of avoiding
it is high. The Nobels feed the pernicious myth of the lone genius.
They reinforce a reward system in science in which the winner takes
all, and the contributions of the many are neglected by
disproportionate attention to the contributions of a few.
in many cases, the prizes are about who has survived. Nobel Prizes
cannot be awarded posthumously. Women have won just 12 of the 214
prizes in physiology or medicine, just 4 of the 175 prizes in
chemistry, and just 2 of the 204 prizes in physics.
this would matter if Nobels were no big deal. But laureates are
blessed with eternal fame — a problem when some turn to
pseudoscience or worse.
2017 October 4
A Banjaxed Conference
By the end of the Conservative party
conference, Theresa May had suffered so many painful betrayals and
humiliations that she should have ditched her speech. Handed a P45
by a comedian as she coughed it out, she had already spent four days
having to suck up all manner of indignities.
The party seemed
to have called an election by mistake. This conference was an
attempt to contain the fallout, which repeatedly
threatened to spill over into open recrimination. Everywhere you
went, you could hear party members muttering about wanting big
ideas, a big vision.
The average age of Conservative
members is around 70. Perhaps there was the odd clue that this sort
of reckoning was in the post. The endless giveaways to baby boomers.
The pollsters who used to say the only
demographic one needed to pay less attention to than young people
was dead people. The sense among the constituency associations that
the definition of young is under 48.
Neither the Tories nor
Labour — both of which proclaim how useless the other
lot are — seem aware what their failure to pull
comfortably ahead against that kind of adversary says about them. We
might hesitate to characterise them as two equally formidable
adversaries grappling at the Reichenbach Falls. Two drunks fighting
in a puddle feels more like it.
The original article is long and witty — I recommend it.
Gravitational Wave Nobelists
Gravitational waves have earned a Nobel
prize for Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish, and Kip Thorne, the three
leaders of the LIGO/VIRGO collaboration that found the waves in
Half of the $1.1 million prize goes to Weiss. The
remainder is shared between Barish and Thorne. Weiss founds ways
back in the 1970s to cancel out sources of background noise that
could be mistaken for gravitational waves. Thorne joined forces with
Weiss to develop the interferometer. Barish was leader of LIGO and
transformed a small research group of 40 into a major international
collaboration of 1000 scientists.
Weiss: "We know about black
holes and neutron stars, but we hope there are other phenomena we
can see because of the gravitational waves they emit."
AR Thorne co-authored with Charles
Misner and John Wheeler the bible of general relativity:
2017 October 3
Guns In America
Since 1970, more Americans have died
from guns (including suicides, murders and accidents) than the sum
total of all the Americans who died in all the wars in American
history, back to the American Revolution. Every day, some 92
Americans die from guns, and American kids are 14 times as likely to
die from guns as children in other developed countries.
Godfather Of Brexit
A friend says UK foreign secretary Boris
Johnson has reinvented himself as the godfather of Brexit.
cabinet minister: "Boris was in danger of sliding out of view but he
is now back in the game. You get some party activists chuntering
about his disloyalty to Theresa May, but at the same meetings you
get people saying — Good old Boris, I'm glad somebody is saying
BoJo: "It would be foolish to leave the EU
only to remain in orbit in a state of lunar capture."
BoJo Brexit Bombast
Boris Johnson is wrong in his impatience for
a fast Brexit. He is right to sense that delay suits the Remainers.
Once Britain enters a holding pen between in and out, the chances of
BoJo has no positive account of exit because there
is none to be had. The EU does not hold member states back from
external trade or from munificent healthcare spending. BoJo has a
political hunch that exit has to happen at pace or not at all.
No prime minister will dare to rescind the referendum. But
Britain could ease into a limbo in which two years of transition
become more. Transition is the last public service of Theresa May.
2017 October 2
The New York Times
The military exercise
Zapad 2017 showed progress in the Russian ability to conduct
complex, large-scale operations, using drones and other new
technology. It far exceeded in scope and scale what Moscow had said
it would conduct.
Before the exercise, Russia said the drills
would involve fewer than 13,000 troops engaged in a counterterrorism
scenario in Belarus, the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, the Baltic
Sea region, and around St. Petersburg. Instead, tens of thousands of
Russian troops in the Arctic and Far East, the Black Sea, near
Ukraine, and in the Abkhazia region of Georgia also joined in.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu: "In effect, these activities
together constituted a single strategic exercise, involving the full
spectrum of Russian and Belarusian military."
Isaac Newton went up to Cambridge in 1661. As
a Fellow of Trinity College and Lucasian Professor of Mathematics
from 1669 onward, Newton was obliged to subscribe to the 39 articles
of the Church of England. Unusually for a fellow at this period, he
refused to take holy orders.
In addition to his public work
as a mathematician and physicist, Newton secretly studied Christian
doctrines. He concluded that the central doctrines of Christianity
were monstrous idolatries and perversions of true religion.
Newton believed he was one of the true believers mentioned in the
book of the Apocalypse, who would be resurrected to rule over
mortals in the Millennium. The Archbishop of Canterbury talked with
him and thought he was mad.
2017 October 1
Conservative Party Conference
Theresa May says the cabinet is united and she will be leader for the long term.
The Russian government meddled in the US presidential election.
Shortly after the election, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg
dismissed as "a pretty crazy idea" the notion that fake news might
have won it for Trump. Last week he said he regretted those words.
Russian trolls with bogus identities bought more than 3,000
Facebook ads. The ads could have been seen by tens of millions of
people. Russians used Facebook Events to organise phoney political
protests in the United States. Twitter was used in a similar way.
It is still too early to conclude that Russian use of social
media decided the election. But we probably can conclude that social
media decided the election. The only indicators that reliably
predicted the election result were Facebook and Twitter. Trump
completely dominated Clinton on both.
Facebook has more than
2 billion users around the world. In America, about two-thirds of
adults are on Facebook. Nearly half get their news from it. The most
powerful media publisher in the history of the world — Citizen Zuck.
Henry Markram aims to understand the
workings of our brains. As our brains think, learn and remember,
they create elaborate but ephemeral structures in at least seven
mathematical dimensions. These transient structures, which appear
and disappear like sandcastles on a beach, could help us understand
how the brain creates our thoughts and feelings.
The Blue Brain Project
was launched in 2005, with the aim of simulating the human brain
inside a computer. In late 2015, the team announced it had recreated
a cylinder of rat brain 0.5 mm wide and 2 mm long, containing 31,000
neurons of more than 200 different types, with some 8 million
connections between them. For Markram, the project director, such
simulations let you see how neurons work together at a level of
detail inaccessible in a real brain. Making sense of the data
involves algebraic topology.
A network of neurons can be
depicted as a graph. A clique is a dense type of graph in which
every neuron is connected to every other neuron. They correspond to
geometrical shapes: 3 neurons in a clique form a 2D triangle, 4 form
a 3D tetrahedron, 5 neurons a 4D structure, and so on. Researchers
see such cliques in real brains but cannot see the direction of
information flow within them. This directionality is clear in a
A team looked for directed cliques in the Blue
Brain data, in which information enters via one neuron, passes
through each of the others and exits via the last. The biologically
inspired network had many times more directed cliques than a
randomly constructed network would, including cliques with up to
8 neurons in 7D cliques — which may increase as the Blue Brain
simulation grows in size.
Neurons that fire together wire
together. In the simulated brain, pairs of neurons connected as part
of a directed clique are more likely to fire together than other
pairs. The bigger the clique a pair of neurons belong to, the more
likely they are to fire together. Simple cliques form first, and
then quickly grow bigger. The stronger the stimulus and the more
synchronized the input received by the neurons, the bigger the
cliques. Once the peak is reached, the structures collapse.
Typically, the process lasts a few tens of milliseconds.
Markram: "When anything happens, the brain builds the most complex
structure that it can. It climbs as high as it possibly can go, and
then it collapses. All stimuli evoke the same stereotypical,
multidimensional sandcastle building and collapsing."
thinks this topological approach could help crack consciousness.
AR Wonderful — this math
fits my picture of consciousness in
Blade Runner 2049
Britain has fallen
from the top
to the bottom of the league of
economies in the
year since the Brexit vote
"De l'audace, encore de l'audace,
toujours de l'audace et la
Boeing v Bombardier
US Department of Commerce
sides with Boeing
in its war
against Canada planemaker Bombardier and slaps 220%
tariffs on sales into the US,
alleging Bombardier sold
airliners below cost into US
thanks to subsidies from
AR Bad for US-UK trade
prospects after Brexit.
The Handmaid's Tale
treats women as property of
state, forcing them
into sexual servitude
to repopulate a
2017 September 30
BFR Mars Vision
The New York Times
Australia, Elon Musk said he has a workable plan for a new rocket
and spaceship. The “BFR” would be 9 m in diameter and able to lift
150 Mg to LEO — more powerful than the Saturn 5 rocket that took
Apollo astronauts to the Moon.
For Mars colonists, the BFR
would lift a spaceship with 40 cabins for about 100 people per
flight. After launch, the booster would return to the launchpad. The
spaceship would continue to orbit and refill its tanks with methane
and oxygen before pushing on to Mars. With everything reusable, the
cost of operation would be low. The system could even fly passengers
between any two points on Earth in less than an hour. Musk said BFR
could launch in 2022 and go to Mars in 2024.
has a Mars mission vision too. It would head to Mars in 2028 with 6
astronauts and the first trip would only circle Mars for a year
before returning to Earth. It would use the Orion crew capsule and
the NASA Deep Space Gateway.
Musk — Moon — Mars
Elon Musk dreams of an
enormous new rocket that he calls the BFR, to lift 150 tons up to
LEO. Once up and running, it will launch satellites and ferry cargo
and crew to the ISS.
Then it will fly to the Moon: "This will
enable the creation of a lunar base. It's 2017 — we should have a
lunar base by now. And then of course Mars, becoming a multi-planet
species. Beats the hell out of being a single-planet species."
5778 Tishri 9
UN schoolbooks used in Gaza and the West
Bank display extreme anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments and no
hope for peace in the region, according to a new study.
textbooks depict Jews as having no rights in the region but only
greedy ambitions. The Jewish holy sites are all presented as Muslim
holy places threatened by Jews. Israel is not recognized at all.
Schoolbooks dated 2016 say the 6 million Jews living in the
country after its supposed liberation will endure expulsion from the
land and extermination of their defeated and scattered remnants.
The UN is helping to prepare Palestinian children and youths for
a future war with Israel.
In Kuala Lumpur, I recently gave a talk on
apostasy from Islam. I said Muslims must uphold freedom of
conscience, in line with the Quranic dictum that there shall be no
compulsion in religion.
A group of religion enforcement
officers came into the lecture hall, looking serious. I and my hosts
decided to cancel my next lecture. I went to the airport to go home
but was arrested and locked up. In the morning, I was taken to a
Shariah court, interrogated for two hours, and finally let go.
A parenthetical note is frequently
inserted into Saudi translations of the Quranic verse: “There shall
be no compulsion in religion (in becoming a Muslim).” They agree
that no one should be forced to become a Muslim but think Muslims
should be compelled to practice Islam in the way they define.
By policing religion, the authorities are enfeebling their
societies, raising hypocrites, and causing people to lose their
respect for Islam.
2017 September 28
Hugh Hefner, the founder and
editor-in-chief of Playboy, always said his ideal for the
centerfold photo was "the girl next door with her clothes off."
Playboy was launched in 1953. The magazine proposed that wanton
sex was good for you. In his first issue, Hefner ran a nude
photograph of Marilyn Monroe. It made the issue a hit.
set out to sell an upscale hedonism. He brought in fiction by
well-known authors and featured interviews with Miles Davis, Peter
Sellers, Bertrand Russell, Malcolm X, Billy Wilder, Richard Burton,
Jawaharlal Nehru, Jimmy Hoffa, Albert Schweitzer, Vladimir Nabokov,
Jean Genet, Ingmar Bergman, Dick Gregory, Henry Miller, Cassius
Clay, George Wallace, and many more.
The fee for a
centerfold shoot today is $25,000. These women hope the centerfold
will get them a career in modeling or acting. One wonders whether
sex is still the point.
Playboy is still the best-selling
men's magazine in the United States.
More Gravitational Waves
On 14 August, the new Virgo detector in
Italy and the two US detectors that make up LIGO all observed the
ripples in spacetime caused by two black holes merging. This is the
fourth gravitational wave detection ever. All four have come from
pairs of black holes spiraling toward one another and then
The black holes that caused this latest burst of
gravitational waves were 31 and 25 times the mass of the sun before
they merged. They are located about 1.8 billion light years away
from Earth in the direction of the constellation Eridanus.
LIGO collaboration member Kenneth Strain: "Three detectors is not
just a little bit better than two — it gives us radically better
information about the location of the source and what's going on
with the source. The numbers we can get now are much more precise
LIGO spokesperson David Shomaker: "This is just
the beginning of observations with the network enabled by Virgo and
LIGO working together. With the next observing run planned for fall
2018 we can expect such detections weekly or even more often."
2017 September 27
Relaunching the European Project
The Europe we know is too weak, too slow,
too inefficient, but Europe alone can give us a capacity for action
in the world in the face of major contemporary challenges. The only
path that assures our future is the rebuilding of a Europe that is
sovereign, united, and democratic.
— Create an EU intervention force
— Create an
EU defense budget and a common doctrine to act
— Create an EU
intelligence academy and a public prosecutor for terrorism
Create an EU asylum office and border police
— Create an EU
natural disaster response force
Economy and Trade
— Impose an EU tax on financial transactions and use it to fund
— Impose an EU company tax with rate bands as a
condition for structural funds
— Strengthen the EZ with a
stronger budget and a minister of finance
— Set a carbon tax of at least €25 per ton
to penalize pollution
— Impose a carbon tax at EU external
borders on imports from polluting industries
— Create an EU innovation agency to
finance research in fields such as AI
— Create EU champions in
the digital transition
— Tax digital enterprises by taxing the
value where it is created
— Regulate major platforms
— Start a broad debate on Europe
to offer ideas before the 2019 EU elections
— Elect half of the
European Parliament on transnational lists
— Reduce the European
Commission to 15 members.
— Rebuild the European project by and
with the people
French president Emmanuel Macron spoke on
the future of Europe for 100 minutes at the Sorbonne. It was more
than double the projected time and was greeted with rapturous
Macron repeated the French
desire for a common EZ budget, focused on renewed Franco-German
cooperation, and proposed the creation of a common European
intervention force and joint defense doctrine. He did not dwell on
"I have no red lines, I have only horizons.
Audacity is the only answer."
We were told that there will be no going
back to a hard border in Ireland. But if part of the island is in a
different customs union than the remainder, the need for border
checks seems inescapable.
Ireland does more than
€1 billion a week trade with the UK. Last year alone saw 110 million
border crossings. Some 375,000 Irish people now live in the UK. And
277,000 British people now live in the Republic of Ireland. For this
volume of trade and travel to be interrupted by border checks is
The peace in Ireland is anchored in EU
membership. EU citizenship has allowed a blurring of British versus
Irish identity. We cannot allow Brexit to undermine the progress
made since 1998.
Jason Brennan says most US voters are
ignorant about politics. They treat politics like a sport. The
completely ignorant are hobbits, those who root for one team and
hate the other are hooligans, and a tiny minority of vulcans examine
the evidence to form their political judgments.
Brennan proposes restricting the franchise on the grounds of a
knowledge test to create an epistocracy. He rejects the pious notion
that political participation tends to educate, enlighten, and
ennoble. He says more political involvement is likely to turn
hobbits into hooligans.
Brennan says modern
democracies fail to achieve rational ends. But the democratic
process is not really about individual voters making rational or
irrational choices. Rather, it allows leaders to gain power on the
basis of their claims to represent different ideas, interests, and
The quality of democracy depends on the space
between voters and the policy decisions that bind them. Ignorance
and misinformation are often spread by political elites to further
their interests. Democratic politics can be ugly, but it can throw
the bastards out.
Intel has developed a self-learning neuromorphic
chip that mimics how the brain functions. This extremely
energy-efficient chip gets smarter over time and does not need to be
trained in the traditional way. It takes a novel approach to
computing via asynchronous spiking.
draws inspiration from our current understanding of brain
architecture and computations. The brain relays information with
pulses or spikes, modulating the synaptic strengths or weight of the
interconnections based on timing of these spikes, and storing these
changes locally at the interconnections. Intelligent behaviors
emerge from the cooperative and competitive interactions between
multiple regions within the neural network and its environment.
The Loihi research test chip includes digital circuits that
mimic the brain, making machine learning faster and more efficient.
Neuromorphic chip models are inspired by how neurons communicate and
learn, using spikes and plastic synapses that can be modulated based
2017 September 26
Germany Turns Right
Germany is heading for a Jamaica
coalition. Germany has never seen such a coalition at the national
level. But the coalition has no substantive foundation. It only has
a common enemy, the AfD.
That is hardly a promising
starting point for good governance. Liberal democracy is insecure.
We are seeing in the United Kingdom and in France how tiny cracks
can grow with time into big divides. We have seen in the United
States, Poland, Hungary, and Turkey how ruthless politics can become
and how rapidly freedom can be eroded.
Whether the AfD, with
its intolerance and xenophobia and with the return of Nazi notions
it represents, will remain a fringe phenomenon or whether it will
prosper and gain power will depend on how the new government and the
new parliament approach the challenges of the coming years.
Angela Merkel enjoys admiration from abroad. In crises, she seems
neutral and ambiguous — she waits to see how things play out.
Germany lost control of its borders for around two months in 2015.
Merkel will have to find her way to determination and learn to
explain the steps she takes if she wants to prevent the populists
The Bundestag has not been good enough in
recent years. There have been few debates deserving of the name and
the government has not felt beholden to parliament. Democracy
Germany Is Normal
Germany has lost its immunity to angry
populism. The Alternative for Germany scored over 13% of the vote,
still well below the proportion of voters who elected Trump,
delivered Brexit, and opted for extremists in France. But its strong
showing dashes the hope that Germany is different.
has begun to play with the most incendiary material in German
history. Alexander Gauland said Germans have a right to be proud of
their soldiers in both world wars. Alice Weidel called the German
government the puppets of the victorious powers of the second world
The presence of a rightwing nationalist party in the
Bundestag will change the tone of German politics. Germany already
has difficult relations with both Turkey and Poland. Hopes for
deeper European integration may be put on hold. Germany looks like a
normal western country.
The Darkening Age
A militant religion deliberately attacked
and suppressed the teachings of the classical world, ushering in
centuries of unquestioning adherence to its faith.
Christians, far from being meek and mild, were violent, ruthless,
and fundamentally intolerant. Unlike the old polytheistic faiths,
this new ideology stated not only that it was the way, the truth and
the light, but also that every other way was wrong and had to be
destroyed. For the first five centuries, those who failed to fall
into step with its beliefs were pursued in every possible way:
social, legal, financial, and physical. Their altars were upturned
and their temples demolished, their statues hacked to pieces and
their priests killed. It was an annihilation.
The Christian church demolished, vandalised and melted down a
simply staggering quantity of art. Classical statues were knocked
from their plinths, defaced, defiled and torn limb from limb.
Temples were razed to their foundations and burned to the ground.
Monasteries began to erase the works of Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca,
and Archimedes. Every single work of Democritus and his heretical
atomism vanished. Nine tenths of all classical literature was lost.
AR Christianity has been
tamed since the
Enlightenment. Now we face the aggressive intolerance of fundamentalist Islam.
Die Linke 69
Prof. h. c. Dr. K. Lamers
Dr. S. Harbarth
führt aus der EU
Brexit — Remain
A new poll shows a majority
UK to remain in the EU.
Of 1,447 British adults polled
in mid-September, with results
for the UK profile,
52% say remain, 48% leave.
"Throughout its history the UN
has suffered from a seemingly
unbridgeable gap between the
nobility of its purposes and the
effectiveness of its delivery."
Wile E Coyote
"Boris is Boris"
Another good movie
and Javier Bardem star in a
spectacle of revulsion,
a veritable agape of chaos,
AR I found it
2017 September 25
The Price of Success
Angela Merkel will serve as German
chancellor for a fourth term. Her Christian Democratic Union (CDU)
and its Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU) saw their
joint result fall by more than 8% — their worst showing since 1949.
The strategic goal has been achieved, but at a high price.
Voters have punished the parties of the current governing coalition.
The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) will now enter
parliament. And it will be difficult for Merkel to build a stable
The AfD have announced their intention
to hunt down the chancellor. More than a million voters are believed
to have flocked from the CDU and the CSU to the AfD. Most of them
say that it was the chancellor's refugee policies that led them to
shift their vote.
Merkel has identified the regulation of
refugee flows and domestic security as the key topics for the coming
years. Who will succeed her? The question is likely to arise soon.
Dunkirk, the rescue of the British army from
the beaches of northeastern France in May 1940, is a British tale
that feeds the myth that has brought the UK to the cliff edge of
departure from the EU — that there is splendor in being alone.
Winston Churchill never saw anything in the least glorious about
standing alone. He saw that while Britain might somehow avert defeat,
without fighting alongside friends it could not conceivably aspire
to victory. Only necessity and a supremely courageous willingness to
defy reason caused him in June 1940 to proclaim British
determination to fight to the last.
For the rest of 1940 —
the mood turned sourer in 1941 — the British people displayed a
stoicism and even euphoria as irrational as Brexit exultation.
Churchill and his nation set the world a magnificent example of
defiance, but it was an impotent defiance, from which both Britain
and democracy were redeemed only by the belated arrival of allies.
Michael Korda is surely right to compare the emotions of the
modern Brexiteers with those of the British in June 1940: "There was
a national sense of relief .. at leaving the Continent and
withdrawing behind the White Cliffs of Dover."
2017 September 24
Jon Henley, 17:23 BST
Angela Merkel will form
a coalition government after sliding to about 32% of the vote
from 41.5% in 2013. She could form a "Jamaica" coalition of CDU
(black), FDP (gold), and Greens (green).
The SPD scores 20% —
a new new post-war low. The party will go into opposition. At 13%,
the AfD will not be the official opposition party in the Bundestag.
Dramatische Verluste für Union,
SPD auf Rekordtief, AfD dritte Kraft
Die Welt, 18:18 CEST
Die Union wird mit 32,7% stärkste
Partei. Die SPD steht nur noch bei 20,2%. Drittstärkste Partei wird
der Hochrechnung von 18.12 Uhr zufolge die AfD mit 13,4%. Die FDP
kehrt mit 10,5% der Stimmen in den Bundestag zurück. Auch Grüne und
Linke werden vertreten sein.
God And Spock
Simon Yisrael Feuerman
A new series of Star Trek
premieres this weekend.
In the original Star Trek series,
Spock was played by Leonard Nimoy. Spock had a Vulcan salute
appropriated from the hand signs the Cohanim make when they recite
the priestly blessings in synagogue.
In one episode, Spock
and Kirk met up with a monster capable of great destruction but also
love and tenderness. Spock felt he must communicate with the monster
even if doing so could kill him. He used a Vulcan mind-meld to
connect with this creature. Spock came into painful touch with the
monster, screaming pain followed by an uncontrollable
Later, Nimoy revealed that he when he
was eight years old, his family took him to shul on the high
holidays, and he witnessed the priestly blessing. His father
admonished him not to look at the priests as they blessed the
congregation. He was told that the shekhina, the presence and the
light of God, shone through their hands and fingers, and the holy
light could fatally blind.
Nimoy invented Spock as a kind of
2017 September 23
Antoine Tilloy approaches gravity by
tweaking standard quantum mechanics. He modifies the GRW model to
show how it can lead to a theory of gravity. The model incorporates
flashes — spontaneous random collapses of the quantum state vector —
that have the effect of measurements without observers.
flash collapses a state vector to a unique state, creating a
gravitational field at that point in spacetime. A massive quantum
system with many particles is subject to numerous flashes, to give a
fluctuating gravitational field that averages out to a Newtonian
This approach to unifying gravity with
quantum mechanics is called semiclassical: gravity arises from
quantum processes but remains a classical force. The model predicts
that gravity behaves differently at the atomic and cosmological
AR It will be hard to
coax us all away from the geometric approach to gravity in general
relativity. Also, those random flashes are quite unmotivated. I
studied the GRW model 30 years ago and was unconvinced. Roger
Penrose controversially proposed a similar mechanism, with
consciousness to trigger the flashes.
2017 September 22
A New Era of Cooperation and Partnership
The British people have decided to leave the
European Union. Our determination to defend the stability, security,
and prosperity of our European neighbours and friends remains
steadfast. We will do all this as a sovereign nation in which the
British people are in control.
Since the triggering of
Article 50 in March, we have made concrete progress on many
important issues. The UK government, the Irish government, and the
EU as a whole have been clear that through the process of our
withdrawal we will protect progress made in Northern Ireland over
recent years. We have also made significant progress on how we look
after European nationals living in the UK and British nationals
living in the 27 Member States of the EU.
We will no longer
be members of the single market or its customs union. Let us be
creative in designing an ambitious economic partnership which
respects the freedoms and principles of the EU, and the wishes of
the British people. To make this partnership work, we will need a
strong and appropriate dispute resolution mechanism.
proposing a bold new strategic agreement that provides a
comprehensive framework for future security, law enforcement, and
criminal justice cooperation. We are also proposing a far reaching
partnership on how we protect Europe together from the threats we
face in the world today. What we are offering will be unprecedented.
There should be a period of implementation after the UK leaves
the EU. As of today, these considerations point to an implementation
period of around two years.
Our departure causes another type
of uncertainty for the remaining member states and their taxpayers
over the EU budget. We can only resolve this as part of the
settlement of all the issues. The UK will honour commitments we have
made during the period of our membership.
will be difficult. But we can find a way forward that makes a
success of this for all of our peoples. The tone I want to set is
one of partnership and friendship.
Germans vote in their general election on
Sunday. The only question is who Angela Merkel will pick as a junior
coalition partner for her fourth term. For spice, you have to look
to the Alternative for Germany and its coded racism.
who grew up in communist East Germany, is the perfect embodiment of
a nation that has had its fill of political thrills. This is why the
country will grant her yet another term, at the end of which she
will have been in office for 16 years.
The queen of consensus
also knows how to reverse course. In the refugee crisis of 2015, she
welcomed a million migrants into the country. By early 2016, the
Balkan route into Germany was closed and border controls were back.
Historically, moderation has never been a German speciality. Now
blandness is a blessing. The Merkel republic offers full employment,
decent growth, and a more egalitarian income distribution than
elsewhere west of Scandinavia.
No European NATO member has
disarmed further or faster than Germany since 1990. But Russians
seem ready to redraw European borders by force.
2017 September 21
The general election in Germany will see the
Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party enter the Bundestag.
Rightwing populism has been a fixture in the Netherlands and Austria
for years and authoritarian nationalists are ruling Poland and
Hungary, but Germany is different.
Four years ago, the AfD
was led by an economics professor who wanted Germany to leave the
euro. He and the other liberals are gone now, sidelined by Frauke
Petry, who transformed the party into a populist anti-immigrant
outfit. But she wanted the AfD to enter government coalitions and
she demanded the expulsion of far-right radicals. Though still the
party chairwoman, she is obviously on the way out.
stars are Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland. Weidel used to work
for Goldman Sachs and Allianz Global Investors, is openly lesbian,
and lives in Switzerland for tax reasons. She praises communist
China for its law and order and because it protects its borders.
Gauland is portrayed in a 1996 novel as a reactionary bureaucrat and
careerist. He is against American capitalism and for
The AfD is on the brink of success.
Perhaps the realities of parliamentary work will expose its
weakness. If a true leader arises, the party could really go places.
Andreas von Bubnoff
Brains are paragons of energy
efficiency. The human brain consumes something like 20 W of power.
Modern supercomputers would use over a billion times the power to
simulate the same activity.
UCLA researchers hope to match
this efficiency with systems that mirror brain structure. A team led
by Adam Stieg and Jim Gimzewski is building a device inspired by the
brain to do what it does.
The current pilot device is a 2x2
mm mesh of silver nanowires connected by artificial synapses. The
device is messy, like a highly interconnected plate of noodles. Its
fine structure essentially organizes itself out of random chemical
and electrical processes.
The mesh boasts 1 billion
artificial synapses per cm^2, which is within a couple of orders of
magnitude of the brain. Its electrical activity also displays a
property of complex systems like the brain: criticality, a state
between order and chaos indicative of maximum efficiency.
Preliminary experiments suggest this neuromorphic silver wire mesh
can perform simple learning and logic operations, it can clean the
unwanted noise from received signals, and it proves the principle
that devices can compute with an energy efficiency close to
that of the brain.
The researchers trained the wire network
to execute simple logic operations. If such neuromorphic atomic
switch networks can eventually solve tasks as effectively as
algorithms running on traditional computers, they could do so using
only a billionth as much power — and fast.
2017 September 20
President Donald Trump says unless North
Korea gives up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs,
"the United States will have no choice but to totally destroy" the
country: "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his
Secretary of Defense James Mattis says a war on the
Korean peninsula would be tragic on an unbelievable scale. Even if
the United States could pull off a military campaign of exceptional
virtuosity, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans would likely die.
National Security Advisor Lieutenant General McMaster has made
the case for military attacks. He says President Trump will not
allow North Korea to develop the capacity for a nuclear attack on
the United States. Military action must be on the table.
White House is conflating possession with use. Shrewder would be to
say nuclear weapons make no difference, because any attack on
America or its allies would result in the end of the Kim regime. A
nuclear-armed North Korea is no big deal.
2017 September 19
As President of the United States, I will
always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your
countries, will always and should always put your countries first.
All responsible leaders have an obligation to serve their own
citizens, and the nation-state remains the best vehicle for
elevating the human condition.
Hegel used to say nation-states were in a state of nature relative
to each other. Wars followed.
We Were Wrong
Earth has warmed more slowly than had been forecast by computer
models. It seems we have a better chance than previously claimed of
meeting the goal set by the Paris agreement on climate change to
limit warming to 1.5 K above pre-industrial levels.
study published in Nature Geoscience shows that rapid reductions in
emissions will still be required but suggests that the world has
more time to make the changes.
University College London
professor of international energy and climate change Michael Grubb:
"It's still likely to be very difficult to achieve these kind of
changes quickly enough but we are in a better place than I thought."
The new study finds that computer models used by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted a more rapid
temperature increase than has taken place. Global average
temperature has risen by about 0.9 K since pre-industrial times but
there was a slowdown in the rate of warming from 2000 to 2014.
Oxford University professor of geosystem science Myles Allen:
"We haven't seen that rapid acceleration in warming after 2000 that
we see in the models. We haven't seen that in the observations."
According to the earlier models, keeping to the 1.5 K target
would mean humans could emit only about 70 gigatons of carbon after
2015. In the new view, we can emit another 240 gigatons and still
have a reasonable chance of keeping within 1.5 K.
"That's about 20 years of emissions before temperatures are likely
to cross 1.5 C. It's the difference between being not doable and
being just doable."
Grubb: "We're in the midst of an energy
revolution and it's happening faster than we thought, which makes it
much more credible for governments to tighten the offer they put on
the table at Paris."
AR Good news
— for now!
2017 September 18
Brexit — Benefits
Theresa May will speak in Florence before
the next round of Brexit talks. She will reportedly say that after
Brexit the UK will wish to maintain a special relationship with the
EU. Arguably her most important audience will be in the UK.
There are economic benefits to be gained from Brexit:
1 UK public finances will benefit. The
outlook published by the OBR shows EU payments falling from £12.6
billion in 2018/19 to zero in 2019/20.
UK legislators can comb through the vast corpus of EU regulation,
amending it to suit the best interests of British business and our
economy in general.
A trade deal is in the gift of the EU,
and at best they will offer a bad deal. No deal simply means trading
on WTO terms, like most UK trade with the rest of the world.
There is no cliff edge and no cliff.
Go tell Wile E Coyote.
A Ludicrous Fantasy
Her Majesty's secretary of state for foreign
and commonwealth affairs, Boris Johnson, is an accomplished
confidence man. His 4,200-word job application (he wants to be prime
minister) in last Saturday's Telegraph is a masterclass in
doublespeak and smarm. Almost everything it says about the prospects
of a Brexit deal is false.
The members of the Conservative
party who might still make him prime minister want to believe
Britain is the second-greatest power on Earth after America. They
want to believe that wicked foreigners are taking from us £350
million a week. They are instinctively convinced they you cannot be
a patriot and a lover of the European Union.
demands a sense of proportion. Fear of young people who declare
their allegiance to a European ideal is not true patriotism but the
last resort of scoundrels. The task for we who think Brexit will be
a disaster is first to mitigate it and second to pin the blame on
the Bullingdon boys.
Richard Prum believes in the Darwinian theory
of sexual selection. He is an expert on the evolution of feathers
and says they may have first evolved as a decorative surface for
Prum believes courtship displays and rituals
arise from a multigenerational conversation between mating partners.
Male aesthetic and social qualities are repeatedly tested, judged,
and modified by whether they please potential mates. Thus individual
female preferences help drive evolution.
according to the demands of either fitness or beauty. A trait
selected for its beauty might create problems by selecting for
ornaments that work against fitness. But aesthetic courtship creates
a culture that gives the female sexual choice, autonomy, and safety.
Such choices gradually reshape mating behavior.
how, for one human trait after another, adaptationist explanations
fail while aesthetic ones work. Distinctive human sexual traits
evolved to help women evaluate male prosocial-pleasure potential.
Humans evolved to negotiate and have sex as a sort of display
Sexual selection is shaped by conflicts between male
and female priorities. Sexual species tend to evolve toward either
big forceful males or beautiful males. Prum says humans chose
2017 September 17
Thermodynamics describes the collective
behavior of large numbers of particles, irrespective of many
microscopic details. It covers a wide class of phenomena in its
In a renormalization group formalism,
we go from small to large by taking averages. Instead of looking at
the behavior of individual atoms, we can take little cubes, say 10
atoms wide on a side, as building blocks. We can then repeat this
averaging procedure. Renormalization theory describes how the
properties of a system change as we increase the length scale of the
At the limits of the renormalization process in
the infinitely large or small, things will typically simplify
because either all details are washed away or the environment
This approach to quantum
gravity started with the thermodynamics of black holes and came into
being with the work of Juan Maldacena. In this approach, quantum
spacetime, including all the particles and forces in it, emerges
from a holographic system with fewer spatial dimensions.
Spacetime emerges out of the complexity of quantum information.
Thermodynamics and general relativity both describe emergent
AR A series of effective models at different scales
needs folding at the limits into a theory of consciousness to give us an
epistemologically grounded ontology.
The Rub Of Time
Martin Amis lives with his wife Isabel
Fonseca in Brooklyn. At 68, he is still very much Amis:
"I miss the
English. I miss Londoners. I miss the wit."
The terms of
success in America are narrower, with a greater emphasis on
individual responsibility. Amis says it is undoubtedly an easier
place in which to be a successful novelist.
died in 2011, much sooner than Amis
expected. Amis is adamant about the absurdity of losing
old friends over politics: "As Hitch said, you can't make old
Since 1993, his own family life has been low in drama.
He says he and Isabel have been lucky in all sorts of ways. Amis has
The Golden House
Salman Rushdie has written a tale involving great wealth and a
great downfall, through a narrator who lives in the same New York garden square as Nero Golden and
his three sons.
The book begins with the election of Barack Obama and ends eight
years later on the eve of an election in which the lead contender
refers to himself as the Joker. Nero is a man of fabulous wealth,
with a beautiful Russian wife, and a fortune thought to be in part
built on real estate.
The novel sees New York from the inside
and the outside. Rushdie seems to be saying character creates destiny. Nero is the architect of his own
2017 September 16
German elections take place on 24
September. There is zero suspense as to who will be the next
chancellor. Angela Merkel is set for a fourth term in office. She
has managed to anchor her image as a safe pair of hands to shield
the country from how crazy the world has become. Germans just want
to hunker down and keep on living the good life.
British, but for entirely different reasons, Germans have taken a
holiday from the world. German voters have not shown the slightest
interest in Brexit. German politicians too: Brexit was not mentioned
once in the TV election debate between Merkel and Martin Schulz.
France comes across as a bit of an exception. Europe featured
prominently in the French campaign, as an object of celebration for
Emmanuel Macron and as a source of all evil for Marine Le Pen. One
reason Macron won is that he equated Europe with a new form of
Contrary to many predictions, the 2015
refugee crisis has not upended German politics. In Britain, it
contributed to producing Brexit. In France, it helped Le Pen collect
10 million votes. Merkel has changed her policies by closing the
open door, but not her rhetoric on the moral duty of asylum.
The German public mood will make it harder to agree a collective
European strategy for dealing with Brexit, Trump, Russia, Turkey,
the Balkans, China, Africa, climate change, migration ..
Armageddon and Paranoia
Nuclear deterrence depended on mutually assured destruction.
Stalin understood after WW2 that the US nuclear arsenal was too
slender to pose an immediate threat. He challenged American power in
Berlin in 1948 and supported the North Korean invasion of South
Korea in 1950.
When Curtis LeMay was called in to sort out US
Strategic Air Command in 1948, he found that bombers had first to
fly to Texas to pick up their bombs, then refuel in Britain before
they could drop their load on the Soviet Union. By 1953 he had fixed
that with 500 bombers, 500 aerial tankers, and a web of bases across
Stalin responded by throwing massive resources at
the nuclear project. In 1955, the Soviets conducted the first ever
test of a thermonuclear bomb, dropped from a plane over
Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan. They launched the satellite Sputnik
into space in 1957.
At the time of the Cuban missile crisis
in 1962, President Kennedy chose not to make use of US nuclear
superiority. The fear that even a few Soviet missiles could hit US
cities was compelling. Kim Jong Un is creating another Sputnik
moment for America.
Armageddon and Paranoia by Rodric Braithwaite
2017 September 15
Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro
regarding the use of force are at the heart of some of the most
beneficial transformations of the past 70 years.
ago, war was regarded as a legal and legitimate instrument of state
action. States had the right to wage war to right legal wrongs. The
first world war was the terrible culmination of the old world order.
The Paris Peace Pact of 1928 had the goal of outlawing war.
Fifteen nations signed the pact immediately and within a year nearly
every state in the world followed suit. The signatories had rejected
a world in which war was the tool for resolving disputes and
In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria. US
secretary of state Henry Stimson wrote to the governments of China
and Japan to say the US government would not recognize any outcome
brought about by means outlawed by the Peace Pact.
US attorney general Robert Jackson said the Peace Pact authorized
the Lend-Lease Act, through which the United States supplied war
material on favorable terms to the Allies.
The second world
war was a war of military might and of ideas. The Axis powers fought
for the retention of the old world order. The Allies aimed to build
a new legal structure grounded in the renunciation of war. When the
Allies won, they defeated the old world order.
Nations was built around the commitment to outlawing war. The world
order that resulted has brought 70 years of peace.
AR Apart from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq ..
The NASA Cassini mission to
the Saturn system ends September 15. The satellite will dive into the
clouds and burn up.
The moon Titan nudged its trajectory down
to Saturn. NASA calls the nudge a goodbye kiss.
In April, Vladimir Putin sent
a document to Washington
proposing normalization of relations between the US and
Russia across all major
branches of government.
He underestimated the
political blowback the
administration would face if
it normalized relations
investigations by the FBI and
Congress into allegations
collusion with Russia.
The Russian ambassador to
offer is still open.
Saharon Shelah have
made a breakthrough in
of the continuum
UK-MEP Nigel Farage bei
AfD-Treff in Zitadelle
spricht mit AfD-MEP
2017 September 14
Populism endangers peace and stability
Hungary — the government is led
by Viktor Orbán, a populist and nationalist who undertook to turn
Hungary in an authoritarian direction. Roughly two-thirds of
Hungarians support xenophobia.
Poland — the
conservative Catholic Law and Justice Party is passing
Czech Republic —
the conservative government is increasingly authoritarian and
Greece — the left-wing
Syriza regime exudes the same authoritarian populism as the extreme
right. Syriza gained power by promising that Greece could keep its
welfare system, never pay its creditors, and maybe even renounce the
France — an existential threat to Jews
has emerged from immigrants. Most of the violence is perpetrated by
radicalized Muslims. French Jews are now leaving the country in
Russia — Vladimir Putin
garners populist praise for Russia as the vanguard of white,
Christian civilization, against both the rising tide of Islam and
American decadence. When the Soviet Union dissolved, its army and
secret police remained intact and communism became nationalism.
2017 September 13
State of the Union
The EU economy is
bouncing back. We should stay the course and chart the direction for
the future. Now is the time to build a more united, stronger and
more democratic Europe for 2025.
Today I wrote to European
Parliament president Antonio Tajani and prime minister Jüri Ratas
outlining the priorities for the year ahead. Five proposals are
1 I want
us to strengthen our European trade agenda. Partners across the
globe are lining up at our door to conclude trade agreements with
2 I want to make our industry
stronger and more competitive. I am shocked when consumers are
knowingly and deliberately misled and I call on the car industry to
come clean and put this right.
I want Europe to be the leader in the fight against climate change.
Set against the collapse of ambition in the United States, Europe
will ensure we make our planet great again.
4 We need to better protect Europeans in
the digital age. A European cybersecurity agency will to help defend
us against attacks.
will stay on our radar. Europe is not a fortress. Europe is and must
remain the continent of solidarity where those fleeing persecution
can find refuge.
Europe was always about values:
Freedom from oppression and dictatorship, freedom
to voice your opinion as a citizen and as a journalist: on these
freedoms our union was built.
between its members, with no second class citizens or second class
workers or second class consumers.
— The rule of law,
with law and justice upheld by an independent judiciary, where
member states gave final jurisdiction to the ECJ.
needs to become more inclusive, with the euro as the single
currency, with all member states in the banking union, and with
agreed social rights. It needs a stronger single market, stronger
economic and monetary union, and a European minister of economy and
finance accountable to the European Parliament.
be stronger in fighting terrorism and stronger as a global actor. By
2025 we need a European defense union. We need it and NATO wants it.
I want our union to have a stronger focus on things that matter.
We should not meddle in the everyday lives of European citizens by
regulating every aspect. We should give back competences to member
states where it makes sense.
The EU needs to take a
democratic leap forward. I would like to see European political
parties start campaigning for the next elections much earlier than
in the past, with new rules on the financing of political parties
and foundations. Europe would function better if we were to merge
the presidencies of the European Commission and the European
On 29 March 2019, the UK will leave the EU. This
will be a very sad and tragic moment. We will always regret it. But
we have to respect the will of the British people.
My hope is
that on 30 March 2019, Europeans will wake up to a Union where we
all stand by our values, where all member states firmly respect the
rule of law, where being a full member of the EZ and the Schengen
area is the norm for all member states, where we can defend our
single currency, where our single market is fairer, where we agree
on social standards, where profits are taxed where they were made,
where terrorists have no loopholes to exploit, where we have agreed
on a defense union, and where a single democratically elected
president leads the way.
If our citizens wake up to this
union on 30 March 2019, they can vote in the European Parliament
elections in May with the firm conviction that our union is a place
that works for them.
2017 September 12
Brexit — The Irish Question
The Irish Question: How do you impose an
EU frontier across a small island without utterly unsettling the
complex compromises that have ended three decades of conflict?
EU guidelines for its negotiations with the UK: "In view of the
unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, flexible and
imaginative solutions will be required."
The Irish radically
revised their nationalism. The power of the Catholic Church
collapsed, the Irish economy became a poster child for
globalization, and the search for peace in Northern Ireland forced a
rethinking of ideas. Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar is 38, part
Indian, and gay.
The Irish border is a physical token of a
mental frontier. The reciprocal withdrawal of territorial claims has
recreated Northern Ireland as a new kind of political space. The
Belfast Agreement recognizes the birthright of all the people of
Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or
British, or both, as they choose.
When these ideas were
framed and endorsed in referendums on both sides of the Irish
border, a third identity as EU members was shared: Ireland and the
UK joined the EU together in 1973.
Brexit is England
revolting against the ideas that animated the Belfast Agreement. In
the 2016 referendum, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and London rejected
Brexit and Wales voted narrowly in favor. In England without London,
Brexit won by almost 11%. Brexit was a nationalist uprising — but
the nation was England.
Northern Ireland is both Irish and
British. Its people have an irrevocable right to be EU citizens.
2017 September 11
Brexit — Sweet Delusion
British hopes for a sweet soft Brexit
deal reveal ignorance of the internal logic of the EU.
is rapidly evolving into an economic zone governed by a single set
of rules and standards and overseen by a single European court of
justice, striking trade deals with the rest of the world and
deriving its logic and coherence from the four freedoms — goods,
capital, services, labor. It will be a single economy, not just a
Brits misread the EU position on Brexit. No
other EU member state wants to leave, because each believes the
benefits of membership exceed its costs. They all want to prevent
other member states using a sweet deal for Britain to claim their
own version. EU refusal to cut Britain a sweet deal is not about
punishment but about self-preservation.
deluded to think EU self-interest is served by a special deal for
AR Like the dilemma of a
bunch of prisoners: one defects and wins at the expense of the
others, several defect and all lose, none defects and all win.
Except that in an integrated world a lone defector can't win
either. Go figure.
The Nature of Consciousness
A Conversation wth Thomas Metzinger
podcast #96 (1 h 54 m)
AR Delightful — I know Thomas and I
feel I know Sam, and I agree with just about everything they say
here. They are two of the inner avatars — two mini-me figures — in my mindspace
that jostle to bring my manifold of sensation to the synthetic unity
of apperception, to recall a trope due to Immanuel Kant. They are
inseparable in that sense from the ceaseless substrate of
cerebro-cognitive processing that builds and rebuilds my sense of
self. To recall a trope due to Daniel Dennett, they are demons in my
2017 September 10
Brexit — Address Grievances
British politics is in thrall to Brexit. There
is no diversion possible from Brexit without addressing the
grievances that gave rise to it. The people forced the political
class to wake up to the depth of their anger. But if those of us
warning about the consequence of Brexit turn out to be right, and it
makes us poorer and weaker, the anger will be worse and the choices
Immigration bedevils the politics of virtually
every European country. We need an immigration policy that reasserts
control. But by focusing on European immigration, we are targeting
the one group of migrants who clearly contribute more than they
— Keep freedom of movement but reform it.
— Support the single market as a matter of principle together with
its social protections.
— Control overall immigration in ways
that meet public anxiety but are true to our values.
why Brexit is a distraction from government failures, not a solution
Many in government feel they are bound by the
referendum and hemmed in by their party. Brexit forces a political
choice that millions will feel they cannot support and a policy
debate completely irrelevant to the real challenges the country
faces. MPs should put country above party.
2017 September 9
The Church of England
A National Census survey suggests that 8.5
million British people now identify as Anglican, down from 13 million a decade ago. In a population of 65 million, fewer than a
million go to church regularly, a decline of 11% over the past
The Church of England has 26 bishops in the House of
Lords and the Archbishop of Canterbury outranks the elected prime
minister. The Queen, who follows Henry VIII as Defender of the
Faith, says her role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion
of other religions but instead to protect the free
practice of all faiths.
The Church of England has three
sources of authority: scripture, tradition, and the exercise of
reason. C of E secretary-general William Nye may understand the
Thirty-Nine Articles but the supposed defining principles of the C
of E are unknown and virtually incomprehensible to most worshippers.
They have been argued over since their promulgation in 1571.
Only an ignoramus would deny the importance of the Church in the
creation of the welfare state. But disagreements over new liturgies,
polite squabbles over gay and gender rights, its wish to share its
authority with Islam, Sikhism and Judaism — these all indicate its
struggle to adjust to the world the rest of us have been living in
A Better Place
In 2007, long before Tesla and Elon Musk
became household names, Israeli tech entrepreneur Shai Agassi
announced that he was going to revolutionize transportation and put
millions of drivers behind the wheel of an inexpensive electric car.
It was going to make the world a Better Place. Brian Blum chronicles
the demise of that dream.
I knew Shai at SAP — he was my boss for a while. Really nice
2017 September 8
Threat to Iran Nuclear Deal
The New York Times
President Trump promised during his
campaign to kill the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Killing the deal
would give Iran an excuse to revive what had been a rapidly
advancing nuclear capability. It would confront the world with
another intractable nuclear challenge in addition to North Korea.
Iran is engaging in some worrisome pursuits, but the deal is
confined to the nuclear program. As long as Tehran is staying within
those limits, Trump has no reason not to certify compliance. The
United States has often held to deals with aggressive or unsavory
Brexit — Hard Border
The UK wants the EU to suspend the
application of its laws, its customs union and its single market at
what will be a new external border of the EU. And the UK wants to
use Ireland as a kind of test case for the future EU-UK customs
relations — this will not happen.
Brexit — Hard Line
Liam Fox et al.
Continued membership of the single
market, even as part of a transitional arrangement, would quite
simply mean EU membership by another name. We cannot allow our
country to be kept in the EU by stealth. The government must respect
the will of the British people, and that means leaving the single
market at the same time as we leave the EU.
The single market
is a political project, and requires its members to constantly
introduce new EU laws. Therefore, the longer one remains a member
the harder it is to leave.
The UK must be free to negotiate
and sign trade deals during the transition period and must have the
power to take back control of key parts of its immigration system.
When we leave in 2019, we need to make sure we are well and truly
AR Hart auf
hart — kann nicht gut gehen.
Oxford University is #1
in the world and
is #2 in the World University
AR British paper hails
Hawker Hurricane (top)
2017 September 7
The electron has two heavier siblings. The
electron was discovered in 1897; the muon, like the electron but
with 207 times the mass, in 1936; and the tau, with 3400 times the
mass, starting in 1974. The electron, the muon, and the tau — the
charged leptons — are different flavors of the same particle.
All the fundamental fermions seem to come in three flavors, with
low, medium, and high masses. Probing flavor physics might help us
see further. One way to do so is to test lepton universality, the
principle that all leptons behave alike, so that when larger
particles decay, any leptons in the fallout should be produced in
equal proportions when their mass is accounted for.
LHC scientists studying the decays of B mesons found 25% fewer muons
than electrons produced, violating the principle of lepton
universality. If lepton universality is broken, one explanation is
that an unknown particle appears fleetingly during the meson decay
and interacts with the various decay products.
was exploring the idea that the Higgs might be composite and worked
out that if it is, then a hypothetical particle called a leptoquark
probably is too. Leptoquarks provide a fresh way to think about
flavor physics. With the mass of a composite leptoquark predicted to
be under 1TeV, it should be possible to make them at the LHC.
AR Call this work in progress.
Reason in Islam
Christopher de Bellaigue
Palestinian philosopher Sari
Nusseibeh has mulled over what many critics of Islam consider to be
its besetting flaw: its antipathy to reason. He says reason entered
Islam through discussion and analysis of the Quran in everyday
Arabic, relying on many of the same philosophical and critical
techniques as Christian theology.
The Quran is a famously
allusive, repetitive, contradictory text. Nusseibeh says the Quran
first enabled reason to flourish in the Mideast. The slow decline of
Muslim reason came after later historical reversals that engendered
a defensive impulse to contract the intellectual world of Islam.
The high-water mark of reason in the modern Mideast came shortly
before WW1, when Egyptian Mufti Muhammad Abduh revived the
Mutazilite idea that the Quran was created, not eternal, and hence a
historical document, open to interpretation according to time and
Nusseibeh: "Given socioeconomic and political
conditions in present-day Arab society, a turn of historical
proportions is needed to give free rein to the imagination and
permit reason to conceive a new course — as happened, so long ago,
right at the beginning."
we call Mideast reason a work in progress?
2017 September 6
Artificial intelligence is the future not
only of Russia but of all of mankind. Whoever becomes the leader in
this sphere will become the ruler of the world.
Immigration can be a controversial topic.
But the action that the White House took today is about young people
who grew up in America. These Dreamers are Americans in their
hearts, in their minds, in every way but on paper.
administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these
young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our
communities and our country. We did so based on the legal principle
of prosecutorial discretion. And America grew stronger as a result.
But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and
brightest young people once again. To target these young people is
wrong. And it is cruel.
The action taken today is a political
decision. It is contrary to our spirit and to common sense.
Ultimately, this is about basic decency.
British Economy Broken
I am convinced that most people in Britain
want an economic system in the service of human flourishing and the
common good, where all are valued and all have a stake, regardless
of their perceived economic worth and ability.
Our economic model is broken and we are failing those who will
grow up into a world where the gap between the richest and poorest
parts of the country is significant and destabilising. Half of all
households have seen no meaningful improvement in their incomes for
more than a decade.
Between 2010 and 2015, the median pay for
directors in FTSE 100 companies rose by almost a half. In communities where I have worked in northern England,
living standards have fallen.
2017 September 5
Some researchers want to reconstruct quantum
theory from a few simple principles.
Lucien Hardy focused on
the probabilities that relate the possible states of a system with
the chance of observing each state in a measurement. He assumed that
any system can be described by a list of properties and their
possible values. Then he considered the possibilities for measuring
the values definitively in a single observation.
A qubit can
be in a superposition of the states 0 or 1. If you measure a qubit,
you only ever get 1 or 0. A quantum object commonly has more states
encoded in the state vector than can be seen in practice.
This property of qubits can be reflected in in probabilistic rules
about how systems can carry information and how they can be combined
and interconverted. The simplest theory to describe such systems is
quantum mechanics, with phenomena such as interference and
entanglement, in which the properties of different objects become
A quantum reconstruction starts by listing
the probabilities that a user of the theory assigns to each of the
possible outcomes of all the measurements the user can perform on a
system. That list is the state of the system. The other ingredients
are the ways states can be transformed into one another, and the
probability of the outputs given certain inputs.
theory can be derived from axioms about information. The axioms
state that information should be localized in spacetime, that
systems should be able to encode information about each other, and
that every process should in principle be reversible, so that
information is conserved. A system governed by these rules shows all
the familiar quantum behaviors, such as superposition and
Hardy suspects there is still a deeper level to
go to in understanding quantum theory.
2017 September 4
NK — Massive Military Response
Any threat to the United States or its
territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a
massive military response, a response both effective and
We are not looking to the total annihilation of
North Korea, but we have many options to do so.
German Election Debate
The New York Times
Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz
clashed in a 97 minute exchange on refugee policy, Turkey, and
domestic security. She agreed with his statement that Turkey should
not become a member of the European Union, while he expressed doubt
about whether President Trump could deal effectively with North
Polls declared Merkel the winner. But many voters
remain uncertain about who could better lead them over the next four
years — nearly half of all German voters remained undecided.
Angela Merkel v Martin Schulz
Watching and hearing the live debate was such a delight —
clear, factual, cooperative, wide ranging, analytic, harmonious,
constructive, intelligent, and illuminating. So refreshingly
different from the polemical dissonance one hears in British TV
2017 September 3
Bournemouth Air Festival
Bournemouth East Cliff
2017-08-31 — 2017-09-03
Brits seem to love nostalgic reminders of World War 2, even just to
see overflights by aircraft of 1940 vintage that failed to prevent the
Dunkirk defeat (left).
Rain stopped play.
NoKo Nuke Test
The New York Times
North Korea carried out its sixth
nuclear test on Sunday, according to the South Korean military.
A seismic tremor emanating from the Punggye-ri underground nuclear
test had an estimated magnitude of 6.3, said the US Geological
Hours earlier, the NK state news agency said NK had
developed a hydrogen bomb that could be mounted on an ICBM — without
real evidence. The fourth NK nuclear test in January 2016 was
claimed to be a hydrogen bomb.
SK president Moon Jae-in and
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe called emergency meetings of
their national security councils.
Abe: "If North Korea has
conducted a nuclear test, we can never accept that."
2017 September 2
Brexit — Wipeout
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier: "No
Without such progress on the Irish
border, the divorce bill, and the rights of EU/UK citizens, there
can be no progress on a trade deal. Nothing — failure.
UK access to European markets implies EU membership, migration of
labour, and a common external tariff. The Irish border cannot be
open and free when it is an EU external border. Either the British
pay their financial obligations or they do not. These are facts, not
The chance is high that the UK will simply
crash out of the EU in March 2019 with no deal. Who would want to be
British prime minister after that, and have to tell the British
people they will be poorer, with rising prices, a falling pound, and
A wipeout for the Tories beckons.
Israel Rosenfield and Edward Ziff
On September 1, 1953,
William Scoville performed brain surgery on HM. From then on, HM
could no longer remember anything he did. He could not remember what
he had just eaten or find his way around the hospital. He failed to
recognize hospital staff he had met only minutes earlier.
After surgery, HM was insensitive to pleasure and pain. This is
critical to understanding his loss of memory. All of our memories
are subjective. The loss of pleasure and pain is a loss of
subjectivity, which HM lost when Scoville removed his hippocampus.
The hippocampus is essential to convert short-term memories to
The hippocampus is made up of cells with
different functions. Place cells respond to location in space,
creating mental maps of the environment. Other cells help establish
our relationships to many other types of environmental and internal
stimuli. Hippocampal neurons convey relationships to our
Our memories are created from the point of
view of the individual who is remembering. We have a sense of self
because we have a preexisting sense of our body that contains that
self. The basis of our subjectivity is our body image, which the
brain creates from our movements and from the sensory responses to
When memories are first formed, they are
short-term and unstable. With time, the physical representation of
the memory in the brain formed by the synaptic junctions between
neurons becomes more stable. The stabilized memories then become
long-term memories. Even long-term memories are dynamic. Each time
the brain tries to activate a memory trace, the nature of that trace
changes. Memories are altered every time the brain recalls them.
2017 September 1
Russia believes that the policy of putting
pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear missile program is
misguided and futile. The region's problems should only be settled
through a direct dialogue of all the parties concerned without any
preconditions. Provocations, pressure and militarist and insulting
rhetoric are a dead-end road. The situation on the Korean peninsula
is balancing on the brink of a large-scale conflict.
Hubble Finds Water Near Trappist-1
Jon von Radowitz
Astronomers say Hubble Space Telescope
data suggests life might have evolved on planets orbiting
Trappist-1, a dwarf star 40 light years from the Sun. A total of 7
planets similar in size to Earth orbit the star in its habitable
zone — and now it seems the outer planets still have plenty of
UV radiation can dry planets out by breaking
up its water molecules. Levels of UV radiation emitted by Trappist-1
suggest its inner planets could have lost 30 Yg of water in the last
250 Ps. But its outer planets may have lost less than 4 Yg
of water, leaving oceans on their surfaces.
AR See blog 2017-02-23 and 2017-05-13.
From dolphins to slime moulds,
organisms throughout the evolutionary tree seem to make sense of the
world mathematically, deciphering its patterns and regularities in
order to survive.
Any form of life that
interacts with its environment needs an implicit model of that
environment to function. Yet these living modelers are unaware of
what they are doing. Even we human beings are unconsciously doing
some pretty complex mathematics when we run or catch a ball.
Humans invented numbers. Our symbolic language for mathematics
allows us not only to overcome certain limitations of our
subconscious mind but also to explore abstract concepts in depth and
communicate them to others. Perhaps we are born with a conscious
sense of numbers in the same way we are conscious of colors.
Humans have built an immense pyramid of mathematical knowledge. The
more we learn about the hidden workings of the universe, the more
such mathematical innovation seems to describe the things we see.
The success of mathematics as a language speaks to its primacy in
the organization of the universe.
Max Tegmark thinks the
universe is a mathematical structure that we are slowly uncovering
to reveal the reality. He says the biggest hurdle is a mathematical
description of consciousness: "That's going to be the final test of
the hypothesis that it's all mathematics."
AR I've done that bit — see my book
North Korea threatens Japan
Black Rock Desert
2017-08-27 — 2017-09-04
Bournemouth beach on
Sterling sank yesterday
to €1.0835. Before the
vote on 23 June
£1 could buy €1.31.
International Space Station
photobombs solar eclipse
Totality from a
Bannon the Barbarian
is back at
"Steve is now unchained"
"He's going nuclear"
Activist and Nobel
Malala Yousafzai wins place
to study PPE at Oxford
2017 August 31
Brexit — Deadlock
Brexit talks are deadlocked as the UK and EU
negotiating teams fail to make progress in critical areas. The
biggest stumbling block is the divorce bill. The UK and the EU
cannot agree on how to calculate it. The two sides may not make
sufficient progress by October to move onto trade talks about the
future UK-EU relationship.
Theresa May: "We have been
publishing a series of papers over the summer. There will be more
papers to come, where we are setting out the key issues that both
sides need to address, the options that we have, the ideas we have,
of how to deal with those."
2017 August 30
Physics of Extremists
We looked at the shapes of the distributions
of terrorist attacks. Given 9/11 and an attack half that size — that
gives you the statistical distribution. When you plot the frequency
of events versus the size of events, you get a straight line with a
slope of 2.5 for conflicts and terrorism.
Loose groups that
come together and then sense danger might fight and then break up
and scatter in all directions. Almost like fish in the sea, they
build into schools and when a predator comes along they scatter.
We took those two features and we built a mathematical model for
collections of objects that try to coalesce into groups, and then
when they detect imminent danger break apart. And then they form up
again, then break apart. The equations gave a power law distribution
for the sizes of the clusters with a slope of 2.5.
form themselves into online groups to exchange information. Like the
fish under the sea, they slowly build up into groups and then the
groups get shut down by the moderators, in which case they scatter.
The size distribution of the groups is a power law with exponent
People who become extremist more quickly do so in a
predictable way. The ones who take longer to cook tend to fluctuate
around more. The tendency for people to flock together and then
break up is common to any human activity that is under stress.
2017 August 29
NK v Japan
North Korea has fired a missile over Japan. Prime
minister Shinzo Abe calls it the "most serious and grave ever"
threat to the country.
The missile was fired just before 6 am
in Japan. The launch set off warnings in northern Japan urging
people to seek shelter. It flew over Hokkaido and broke up before
falling into the Pacific Ocean a little more than 1 Mm off the
Japanese coast. The missile was in flight for a little less than
Japan's UN ambassador Koro Bessho: "The international
community has to put more pressure on North Korea."
Dutch nuclear research institute NRG has
launched the Salt Irradiation Experiment (SALIENT) in collaboration
with the EU Commission. The researchers will use thorium as a fuel
for a molten salt reactor, a next-generation design for nuclear
power. Molten salt reactors can achieve very high temperatures,
boosting the efficiency of the power generation process.
Other will join the thorium club. A US startup based in Utah is
developing a thorium reactor, and Utah's Seven County Infrastructure
Coalition is seeking experts to evaluate a thorium energy facility
for producing electricity. By the end of the year, the Kalpakkam
thorium test reactor in India may start generating energy.
AR I have been pushing for more thorium
power R and D for years.
2017 August 28
Brexit — Soft Option
A Conservative government with a delusional
policy on Brexit is hastening the UK toward an exit from the EU that
could devastate the economy.
Labour's new Brexit policy is
that Britain must remain inside the single market and the customs
union for a transitional period. The transitional period will be as
short as possible but as long as necessary. During that time,
existing single market and customs union terms would continue to
apply. Labour wants the soft option.
Labour is now more
electable. Labour MPs can work with the many Conservatives who want
a softer Brexit. This is a moment of hope.
Brexit — Brussels Anger
Christoph B. Schiltz
First the UK irritated the EU
because it failed to explain what it wanted at Brexit. Now as the
third round of negotiations begin the ideas are coming — and
Brussels is angry.
According to Article 50, at midnight on 29
March 2019, the UK is out. The EU Parliament says cherry picking is
not on. The size of the Brexit bill, the rights of EU citizens, and
the Irish question should be decided by October.
is still open.
2017 August 27
Grave Systemic Crisis
Philip Zelikow has served Republican and Democratic presidents
and was executive director of the 9/11 commission. He says the Bush,
Obama, and Trump administrations have all been lured by the threat
of Islamic terrorism into "broken wilderness areas of the world"
that are unlikely to change the course of world history in any
Zelikow says catalytic change comes only after
a systemic crisis when people all over the world no longer think the
old order works. We are on the brink of just such a crisis now,
triggered by the digital revolution and the spread of Islamic
extremism and much else.
The West no longer has the secret
sauce: the growth rate is a grinding 2%, the returns go to the top
0.1%, and the public and private debt just keeps piling up. Anyone
who wants to take umbrage at anything shrieks "hate speech!" — the
modern term for heresy.
The world is probably slouching
toward a grave systemic crisis.
Sperm Counts Plummeting
Men in North America, Europe, Australia and New
Zealand have suffered a 52% decline in sperm concentration and a 59%
decline in total sperm count between 1973 and 2011.
AR Blame hot pants — free the scrotum!
2017 August 26
Germany Military Leadership
Germany is an integral member of NATO.
From 1945 to 1989, the US army gave West Germany the safety and
security to develop a uniquely successful political culture. But
there are reasons to doubt continuing American support. Germany
should make its own plans to deal with threats.
the military and diplomatic power to keep Europe safe from future
Russian aggression. Germans once confronted the problem of
unification, and they spent time and resources on solving it. But
when it comes to problems in the wider region, Germany has been
German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel has made the
already low German defense budget an electoral issue. Given the poor
condition of German armed forces, this seems irresponsible. Germans
should work with the EU to create a multinational force that can
defend EU borders.
Brexit threatens to cause confusion in
Northern Ireland. Since 1998, Catholics in Northern Ireland have
shared Irish citizenship. But when an EU external border runs
through the island of Ireland, they will become EU citizens outside
In 20 years of relative peace, the island of
Ireland has become a single economic entity. But if the UK ends up
leaving the EU single market and customs union, a border control
regime will have to be reintroduced. This will cause tensions.
Irish and Northern Irish Catholics would like to see Northern
Ireland remain part of both the UK and the EU. London and the EU27
would have to agree, as too would Northern Irish Protestants, most
of whom are diehard loyalists.
A New Political Party
Many people in the UK have decried the idea of a new, pro-EU
political party. But the simple
fact is that the 48% of people who voted Remain don't have a party
they can vote for. So market forces tell you there is a big, obvious
market for a new, centrist, pro-EU party.
this new party seems to be forming in a tearing hurry — the
presumption being it will have to be up and running if/when the
Brexit shit hits the fan and the population looks for something new — I fear things will be
overlooked as people seek to form an instant structure.
most useful thing would be a pamphlet.
It would do us good to return to the era of the thoughtful, well-reasoned pamphlet. Every generation should start at
the beginning again and remind itself that the basis of any
democratic system is a series of philosophical questions.
2017 August 25
The rise of internet platforms promised mass
participation in the public sphere. This felt and functioned like
freedom, but it was always a commercial simulation. This
contradiction is foundational to what internet companies are.
Social platforms refer to their customers as users or members of
a community. Their leaders are prone to statesmanlike posturing, and
content moderation and behavioral guidelines are likewise rendered
in the terms of legal governance. Questions about how platforms deal
with disruptive users and offensive content are met by invoking free
These companies draw arbitrary boundaries against
spammers, concerning profanity, or in response to government
demands. Social platforms are closer to authoritarian spaces than
German Left parliamentarian Gregor Gysi is bothered
by the slow demise of free body culture (FKK) in Germany: "We need to
make FKK possible at more places. It would be a great benefit."
After reunification, FKK began to dwindle even in East Germany.
Gysi quotes a sex researcher who says West German men are
responsible for the decline by ogling women: "Women didn't want to
be looked at. They wanted to be free."
Gysi wants to see more
nude beaches in Germany because FKK is part of German culture and an
aspect of freedom: "A one-piece swimsuit or a bikini may be
uncomfortable for some."
Taking Back Control
The UK prime minister says the UK parliament
will make laws, UK judges will interpret them, and the UK supreme
court will be ultimate arbiter in disputes over them. The UK will be
outside the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU).
Without the CJEU check on power, the unwritten UK constitution
gives the government tremendous power to push through its own
policies. A government with a large parliamentary majority is
sovereign. The House of Commons has unchecked power. The House of
Lords has no veto over legislation, and parliament can block a UK
court from hearing a judicial review against the government.
The CJEU has at times acted on behalf of UK citizens over the UK
government. It has put environmental issues into EU law and has
helped to create important rights for UK citizens. Now the UK
government will take back control.
2017 August 24
Rule Britannia — Not
HMS Queen Elizabeth can carry 60 fighter
aircraft. But the the American F-35B jump-jets planned for it are
too expensive. So the Royal Navy flagship will have to make do with
12 or fewer.
Brexit Britain is billed as Global Britain. No
one knows why giving up on Europe will enhance British standing
elsewhere. Now ministers admit they cannot afford a hard Brexit.
Britain will leave the EU customs union but the government wants
to replicate its arrangements. The ECJ will be out but
Britain will accept another court that takes its
lead from the ECJ. Britain will be out of the single market
but a "deep and special" partnership will ensure frictionless
Brexiteers think international trade is about
tariffs. Today standards and norms are what really matter. Services
too need common rules and mutual recognition.
the government wants to cut numbers to below a net 100,000 a year —
but hospitals will not lose EU doctors and nurses, farmers will
still have cheap eastern European labour, and foreign bankers and
tech wizards will always be welcome.
Most ministers know that
Brexit comes with a hefty cost, but are unwilling to say so to
voters. So they promise to make a success of what they know will be
Britain could just join the United States. After
all, the first jets to fly from the Queen Elizabeth will belong to
the US Marines. But Donald Trump takes the shine off that idea.
2017 August 23
Total Eclipse of the Presidency
In Arizona, President Donald Trump revisited his
response to violence in Charlottesville and reignited the culture
He blamed "weak, weak people" for allowing removal of
statues commemorating the Confederacy:
"They're trying to take
away our culture. They're trying to take away our history."
On the protests in Charlottesville:
"The only people giving a
platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news
I hit 'em with neo-Nazi, I hit 'em with everything. KKK? We
have KKK. I got 'em all."
On the failed vote to repeal and
replace Obamacare and Arizona senator John McCain:
away, I will not mention any names."
A swipe at Arizona
senator Jeff Flake: "Nobody wants me to talk about him. Nobody knows
who the hell he is. And now, we haven't mentioned any names, so now,
"I think we'll probably end up
terminating NAFTA at some point .. Believe me, if we have to close
down our government, we're building that wall."
majority leader Mitch McConnell doubts whether Trump can lead the
Republican Party into the mid-term elections and beyond.
US Military Coup
With his speech on Monday about
increasing troop deployment to Afghanistan and US policy in
South Asia, US President Trump surrendered to the military. His
generals — chief of staff John Kelly, defense secretary James
Mattis, and national security advisor H.R. McMaster — hold him
In 1961, US President and former D-Day supreme
commander Dwight Eisenhower warned against this: "In the councils of
government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted
influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial
complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power
exists and will persist."
A military takeover from Trump is a step forward.
2017 August 22
Afghanistan, Pakistan, India
We have been paying Pakistan billions and
billions of dollars, at the same time, they are housing the very
terrorists we are fighting. That must change immediately.
appreciate India's important contributions to stability in
Afghanistan but India makes billions of dollars in trade from the
United States and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan,
especially in the area of economic assistance and development.
AR The US must get tougher than this
US 0, China 2
In his last interview before he
was fired, Steve Bannon said the US was engaged in an economic war
with China. His exit shows Beijing is winning.
Goal 1 for
China — President Donald Trump decided to abandon the Trans-Pacific
Partnership. The TPP would have locked the US and China's largest
Asian trading partners in a formidable economic bloc from which
Beijing was initially excluded.
No US goal — Trump did not
confront the One China policy or declare China a currency
manipulator. His administration has just launched a probe into
alleged Chinese theft of intellectual property, but it will probably
drag on for a year.
Goal 2 for China — Beijing has avoided
any economic disruptions with the US ahead of a Communist party
congress this autumn that will inaugurate the second term in office
for President Xi Jinping.
Trump has cost the US another trillion dollars.
Brexit — Yes
Our report estimate that the gains from a
full Brexit will be £135 billion: a 7% boost to GDP and a rise the
growth rate. Elements in the calculation: free trade, pragmatic
regulation, zero EU payments, and no more cost to the taxpayer of
the subsidy paid to unskilled EU immigrants.
have triggered howls of protest and derision from economists. They
assume Brexit UK will be protectionist and they use a "gravity" model
in which trade is a function of the size and proximity of trading
The UK government is committed to free trade and
the UK economy shows growth toward net exports away from
consumption. The gravity model cannot account for the surge in our
service exports all around the world or our huge trade with
Brexit — No
Molly Scott Cato
The model estimating a big boost from a
hard Brexit is voodoo economics. It is based on the UK unilaterally
removing all restrictions and tariffs and trying our luck in a
global market. This would lead to a massive fall in wages and the
end of UK manufacturing.
That model has no credibility. The
view of the EU as a costly protectionist club has been debunked. In
the real world, proximity, common standards, and rapid movement of
components matter. The report is based on the illusion that the UK
can stand alone in a globalized world.
2017 August 21
Future of Life Institute
● Tesla founder Elon Musk and
Google DeepMind man Mustafa Suleyman:
autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in
warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be
fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than
humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that
despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons
hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act.
Once this Pandora's box is opened, it will be hard to close."
AR Respect the rule of law [lethal
Brexit — Cold Autumn
Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar says it
has proved too difficult to close the differences in the opening
rounds of talks between the EU and the UK. In October the European
Council, on which Cerar sits, will decide by unanimity whether
sufficient progress has been made on three key issues for talks to
begin on trade.
Brexit — A Champion
The EU single market is a fortress protected by high external
tariff walls. The big issue today is not tariffs but standards.
Britain has a strong interest in trying to lead the world into
services liberalisation. Britain can champion a shift toward an
approach based on principles, focused on outcomes, and friendly to
A Clean Brexit
There will be no soft Brexit when the UK
leaves the EU. A second referendum would be a distraction and
perpetuate uncertainty. The EU must comply with the WTO trade
facilitation agreement. Matters regarding interpretation of an
interim agreement must be settled via an independent tribunal, not
by the ECJ.
A Brexit Court
Britain could both withdraw from the ECJ and accept EU demands
for independent judicial oversight of a future deal. EFTA court
president Carl Baudenbacher proposes that the UK agree to accept the
jurisdiction of the EFTA court, which oversees the EU relationship
with Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
"The big difficulty is that the EFTA court takes its lead from the
ECJ, and while its rulings are technically advisory, in practice
they take direct effect in the countries concerned. That would be
AR UK — a law
unto itself — a.k.a. rogue state.
2017 August 20
Brexit — Legal Confusion?
Brexiteers vilify the European Court of
Justice (ECJ). But the ECJ in Luxembourg scored a win for the City
of London when it ruled that the ECB was wrong to insist that euro
clearing houses should be based in the EZ.
The European Court
of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg is the one that ruled on
prisoners' voting rights and that obstructed the path of UK efforts
to deport Abu Qatada.
Brexiteers hate letting a foreign court
tell British courts what to do. But the ECJ only interprets the
meaning of EU law. The UK courts apply that interpretation to the
Given the proximity of the UK customs union with the
EU customs union, any judgments of the ECJ on the EU customs union
will put UK courts under a strong obligation to interpret UK law in
the light of ECJ judgments.
After Brexit, any future ECJ
judgments will be drafted without the benefit of British judges
sitting on its bench and British lawyers arguing the case. The UK
has punched above its weight in getting its way — all that will be
2017 August 19
What the surfer knows, in knowing how to ride
a wave, bears on questions about freedom, control,
happiness, society, our relation to nature, the value of work, and
the meaning of life.
For someone to be surfing, three
conditions must be met:
1 He must be
attuned to a shifting phenomenon outside of himself, like a wave.
2 He must be adapting himself in
response to it, so as to be carried along by its propulsive forces.
3 He must be doing so intentionally and
for its own sake.
Adaptive attunement captures a meaningful
sense of freedom consistent with being trapped by the laws of
nature. Freedom is a matter of transcending your will and
accepting the exchange between what you intend to do and what you
are constrained to do by the forces around you. You take what the
wave gives you.
On my first retreat I had an experience
that bordered on hallucinogenic. At first I was, like, whoa. I mean,
this is my first retreat, right? And at first it's like red and
purple and I'm like: Whoa, this is a new place. What I observed was
actually in a sense that thought, except that what it looked like
was one entity saying it to another, and I realized it was kind of
like the inside of my mind.
Our ordinary way of seeing things
is pretty deeply confused. You have apprehensions that are quite
different from your ordinary way of experiencing things. Like you're
meditating on a retreat, and you feel that the tingling in your foot
is no more a part of you than a bird that's singing.
2017 August 18
Germany is a rich country, with the
highest income per head of the larger EU countries, comfortably
ahead of Britain, France, and Italy. Unemployment is the lowest in
But the disparities between rich and poor loom large
for many Germans, who have long believed they live in an
unusually fair society, after WW2 swept away old elites and left a
more equal country.
On household income, Germany is close to
the EU average. But on wealth, Germany is significantly less equal
than its EU peers. The gap has widened for the same reasons as
elsewhere — globalization and technological change.
than half of Germans own their own homes. The rest rent. The market
delivers affordable housing but discourages investment in home
— German state pensions are generous for most
people who are employed full-time for most of their working lives.
They are a reliable way of financing old age.
inheritance tax law favors business owners. The rules largely exempt
fortunes invested in productive companies as long as the heirs
promise to maintain jobs.
Parliamentary elections in
September offer Germans a chance to make their voices heard. SPD
leader Martin Schulz pledges to raise taxes on the well-paid to
finance tax cuts for those on lower incomes. Chancellor
Angela Merkel offers tax cuts for all, funded from the budget
Trump — Toast
Before composing his ode to the statues of
Confederate leaders, Donald Trump tore into two Republican senators
who had dared to criticize him for what he said about
Charlottesville. To get any trade or tax legislation through
Congress, the White House will need the overwhelming support of
Republicans in Congress. Even assuming that Trump will survive this
latest horror show, he has moved onto political ground that makes it
virtually impossible for other people to stand with him.
Steve Bannon — Fired
2017 August 17
We're at economic war with China. They're
not shy about saying what they're doing. One of us is going to be a
hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it's gonna be them if we go down this
path. On Korea, they're just tapping us along. It's just a sideshow.
There’s no military solution to North Korea,
forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows
me that 10 million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes
from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about,
there's no military solution here, they got us.
To me, the
economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally
focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we're 5 years away, I
think, 10 years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from
which we'll never be able to recover.
Bacteria have a DNA repair mechanism
for when their genomes are damaged. Dozens of genes become active
and the rate of mutation goes up. The extra mutations are often
detrimental but they enable adaptation.
be a mechanism that drives more mutation in regions of the genome
where it could be most adaptive. DNA often contains multiple copies
of extended sequences of base pairs or genes because mistakes can
occur when cells replicate their DNA. If the replication mechanism
stalls, usually it can restart and pick up where it left off.
Sometimes it goes back to the beginning and accidentally deletes a
gene sequence or makes extra copies of it. Perhaps these copying
errors are more likely to hit genes that are actively responding to
This mechanism can arise entirely
through Darwinian selection of random mutations to give a process
that stimulates nonrandom mutations at useful sites.
HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Portsmouth
— its F-35B aircraft have not yet been built
The US commander-in-chief
is giving succor to Neonazis.
democracy is heading
toward civil breakdown.
German GDP grew 0.6% in Q2
and 0.7% in Q1.
was in line with EZ average.
growth was 2.1%.
ING economist Carsten Brzeski:
"There is very
little reason to
fear a sudden end to the
"The only way to preserve
free and frictionless trade
European Union is
continued membership of
the customs union,
as the single market."
Americans believe in heaven
miracles. Surveys show
the reality-based community
minority in America.
Being American means
we can believe
No No To Nukes
The American public would
not stop a
using nuclear weapons in war. Under pressures like
facing President Harry Truman
in 1945, a clear majority
the public would support the
first use of nukes now,
it did then.
with 2 x Taurus
The ROK Air
attack NK hard targets with
Taurus KEPD 350, an
made in Germany
"Cometh the hour,
cometh the Mogg"
Rolf Peter Sieferle
2017 August 16
Charlottesville, Virginia, last Friday
night: White nationalists brandished torches, chanted Nazi slogans,
and waved a banner: "Jews are Satan's children."
Grand Wizard David Duke: "The truth is, the American media, and the
American political system, and the American Federal Reserve, is
dominated by a tiny minority: the Jewish Zionist cause .. We're
going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump."
luminary Richard Spencer mocked Charlottesville's Jewish mayor Mike
Signer: "Little Mayor Signer — 'See-ner' — how do you pronounce this
little creep's name?"
Crowd: "Jew, Jew, Jew."
I was not surprised to learn that Google
fired James Damore. I think he made a number of errors. Research on
differences in the sexes finds them to be quite small, and they do
not show women are less fitted for roles in technology and
The notion that there is something
right wing about discussing genes is ridiculous. What we are
learning about genes and behavior is a more serious challenge to the
right than to the left. There is a connection between genes and
No argument gets far by ignoring science and common
sense. Far from supporting racism, genetic research questions
whether race even exists. Debating the relationship between nature
and social outcomes helps us understand discrimination.
some people are naturally less able to make their way in the world
than others, then it may not be enough to allow equal opportunity.
Genes make the case for redistribution. Progressives need not fear
acknowledging the role of genes.
In Russia and Belarus, preparations are underway for
Zapad, a major military exercise to be held in September. Of all the
exercises in the Russian military calendar, quadrennial Zapad is the
one that most closely resembles practice for invading neighbors.
The United States, NATO, and states
bordering Russia will be watching closely to learn what they can
about the latest Russian capabilities and military procedures.
Russia has previously used the fact of troops on the move for
exercises to launch real military operations.
Belarus is an
ally of Russia but has no antagonism toward the West and wants
instead to remain neutral between Russia and NATO. The authorities
in Minsk have invited military observers and defense attachés from a
large number of countries and international organizations.
NATO states have made small temporary increases in defensive assets
in the Baltic states as a precaution.
The UK government Brexit paper on future
customs arrangements accepts the UK will need a transitional customs
union to avoid a catastrophic shock in March 2019. DExEU SoS David
Davis calls the lack of detail "constructive ambiguity".
maintain frictionless trade with the EU, the UK will need to
continue the regulation that underpins the single market. Beyond the
transition period, the plans envisage either a streamlined customs
arrangement using new technology or a new customs partnership that
can reliably track goods through international supply chains.
Commission says only membership of the customs union and single
market will deliver frictionless trade.
Brexit Britain — Urbane, Unhinged
Hollywood saw long ago that a British accent
makes a fine complement to evil villainy. The center ground of
British politics is gone. Beyond our shores, no one thinks Brexit is
consistent with the nobler traditions of British statecraft.
Tory radicals cast themselves as swashbuckling
adventurers, freeing the UK to find riches on the high seas. But
another archetype casts Brexiteers as fanatics urging chaos in
honeyed tones, sheathing villainy in gentility.
AR Beware of the Mogg.
2017 August 15
Have Cake And Eat It
The UK government will seek a temporary deal
with the EU for a few years after Brexit.
A deal with the EU
to retain the benefits of customs union for a transitional period
would give businesses and officials time to gear up for a new
customs regime and give the UK time to strike new trade deals with
non-EU countries. During the transition Britain would not be party
to the EU treaties.
The EU will have to decide whether it
would accept such an arrangement.
No Right Case For Brexit
Jacob Rees-Mogg is an authentic
reactionary. A rampant Brexiteer and a Trump defender, he is a
hard-right Tory, from climate-change denial to praise for disability
cuts, from attacking the BBC to abhorrence of regulation.
wants to cut taxes. He says this brings in more revenue: "Generally
people will spend their own money more effectively than the
government, and there is no money at all except that earned by the
Wrong. We need a strong state to guarantee
property rights, basic public services for the workforce, and so on.
Try running a business in a failed state.
No Left Case For Brexit
If Labour supporters want a glimpse of what their
2017 election manifesto would look like in practice, they only need
to cross the Channel.
In France, university tuition is funded
by the taxpayer. In Portugal and Slovakia, domestic energy consumers
enjoy price caps. In Germany, there is a network of public savings
banks. In Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria, train
companies are public. In Luxembourg and Belgium, there are no
zero-hour contracts. In Sweden and Denmark, the state takes half of
national income in tax.
The EU is a bastion of social
democracy. The Leftist case for Brexit is flimsy. The idea that
the EU is a neoliberal project is daft.
AR No good case on either side for Brexit.
2017 August 14
America — Locked and Loaded
Donald Trump's threats that North Korea
risks fire and fury from a locked and loaded America put American
credibility on the line and prompts escalation by the Kim Jong Un
regime. He is flirting with a pre-emptive strike on North Korea. All
previous presidents have rejected pre-emptive attacks on
The crisis that Trump is stoking is
increasingly inseparable from the domestic problems besieging his
administration. The investigation by Robert Mueller into Russian
intervention in the US election is getting ever closer to the Trump
inner circle. Congress is deadlocked and the White House is a hive
of sackings and scheming.
The idea that the threat of war
could lead Americans to rally around the president should sound
alarm bells for anyone with a sense of history. Governments facing a
domestic crisis are often more inclined to adventurism abroad.
Leaders under severe domestic political pressure are also more
likely to behave irrationally.
James Damore: "Philosophically, I don't
think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make
it appealing to equal portions of both men and women."
engineer in Google, Damore wrote a memo full of of bad science and
biological determinism. He said women are intrinsically different to
men, with more openness, interest in people over things, preference
for social and artistic work, neuroticism and anxiety, and so on.
Science is a slow process, not a growing string of truths.
Damore portrays women as a product of inherited traits without
social and cultural influence. His assertions presume gender
identity happens in a cultural vacuum.
Damore: "We ask why we
don't see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we
see so many men in these jobs, These positions often require long,
stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and
Men do not have biological predisposition
toward stressful hours any more than women do. A balanced and
fulfilling life is different if you do most of the domestic labor
and child rearing. An aggressively masculine "bro" culture makes
those long office hours even worse.
Free the Queen!
Britain's most troubled family is way past its sell-by date and
living on borrowed time. We should consign the UK to the dustbin of
history and embrace the future as the British Republic.
Ending the monarchy is not the most pressing challenge confronting
these islands. Yet in its own little way the dusty institution is a
block to decency and progress. Royal inherited wealth and habits of
deference give respectability to unearned riches and grotesque
Criticism of royalty is not
treason. In an age of austerity there are better
ways to spend £369 million than tarting up Buckingham Palace. The
royals live in a gilded cage — free them!
2017 August 13
Conservatism is the attempt to conserve our community in all
matters that ensure our long-term survival and mutual support.
Peace, security, democracy, and historic liberties all depend on
a shared sense of belonging among strangers whom we can trust; on
traditions of education, cooperation, and compromise; on the
Christian legacy of neighbourly love and a tradition of tolerance.
They depend upon institutions and forms of life that are the legacy
of our attempts to live together as a nation on our island.
Changes have occurred that can unwind those relations of dependence:
● The mass immigration of
communities who define their political membership in religious
rather than secular terms
● The transfer of sovereignty
from parliament to unelected officials in foreign countries
and foreign courts of law
● The disruption of the common
law by the abolition of the tutelary office of lord chancellor
and the creation of a supreme court
● The assault on national
unity caused by creating a Scottish parliament while leaving the
English with no assembly of their own
politicians have a duty to articulate the idea of a diverse but
unified civil society and its corporate persona. We have blundered
into a condition of mass immigration with no philosophy to justify
the attempt to limit it.
In the Brexit vote, the only ideas
that emerged were economic, as though the "we" of national
sovereignty were merely a matter of being as wealthy as we possibly
can. Reducing every question to economics is the fundamental error
of the Marxists.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is an unlikely outsider. His
old-world civility does not suggest much appeal to young voters. But
at 48 he is social-media savvy and benefits from suggestions that
the Conservatives should skip a generation.
As a constituency MP I am always seeking to
represent the people remote from the centres of power, rather than
the interests of lobby groups.
The problem with the European
Union is we can be outvoted by a qualified majority vote and
therefore laws can be passed that the British people have not only
not consented to but have opposed. Some Remoaners think that the
people that voted for Brexit were all stupid.
back-bench MP. My ambition is to be re-elected in North East
Somerset. It would be unrealistic of me to have further ambitions.
I'm very interested in political ideas, developing Conservative
thinking, and I'm very keen that we should have a positive message
My family is the most important thing. I've
got six lovely, delightful children. I'm very lucky. I have a
wonderful wife who looks after us all.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is a reactionary with the intellectual
nimbleness of a top QC and the opinions of a Colonel Blimp. On
Europe, his instincts would take Britain crashing out with no deal
A British Crisis
Britain is suffering a governability
crisis. The implementation of the EU referendum decision has been
rash and chaotic. The EU is a coalition of democratic states which
pledge to advance human rights, the rule of law, and democratic
rules. That is the team to be in.
2017 August 12
Loosely translated, ikigai is your
purpose in life, from the Japanese iki (to live) and
It's your reason for getting up in the morning.
An ikigai is something that gives you pleasure and purpose —
walking the dog, drinking green tea, or writing a book.
Memory of Justice is a long (2 h 38 m) documentary directed by
Marcel Ophuls about wartime atrocities that has rarely been seen
since 1976. In it, the Nazi leaders, one after the other, declared
their innocence in the Nuremberg courtroom; Yehudi Menuhin said he
assumed every human being was guilty; and Telford Taylor, US counsel
for the prosecution at Nuremberg, asked how any of us would cope
with the degeneration of standards under pressure.
a superb interviewer, often skeptical, never moralistic or
aggressive. Perhaps his most disturbing interview was with Otto
Kranzbühler, who was defense counsel for Admiral Dönitz at Nuremberg
and later had a successful career as a corporate lawyer. Kranzbühler
said of the Third Reich: if you were ignorant of what went on, you
were a fool; if you knew, but looked the other way, you were a
coward; if you knew, and took part, you were a criminal.
AR I watched (parts of) a serialization
of the movie on TV in Germany (or the whole of a short cut —
2017 August 11
UK Homeless Crisis
UK homelessness is rising. Unless changes
are made, the number of people made homeless in Britain will double
to 575,000 by 2041. Homelessness has already doubled since 2010.
When local council budgets were cut,
housing support services suffered. When housing benefit was removed
for young people, many were forced onto the streets. When a cap was
imposed on the maximum amount a household can receive in welfare,
housing benefit was cut.
The charity Crisis suggests remedial
— A 60% increase in new housing
— Adequate funding
for local councils
— Mental health support for rough sleepers
We must press the government to address the crisis.
UK Rental Crisis
Millions of UK tenants are living in homes
that contain dangerous safety hazards and are unfit for habitation.
Over a quarter of homes rented from private landlords fail to meet
the national Decent Homes Standard.
English Housing Survey data reveals 795,000 homes rented from
private landlords currently contain hazards such as dangerous
boilers, exposed wiring, overloaded electricity sockets, and vermin
Private landlords are significantly worse at
maintaining their properties than homeowners or social housing
providers and are more than twice as likely as social landlords to
be renting out a property containing a serious safety hazard.
Local councils are struggling. LGA housing spokesman Martin
Tett: "Councils need more resources from government to help councils
build more homes for rent, supported by adequate infrastructure and
services, and incentives to help raise standards in the private
Private rents have risen by 22% since 2010.
Between a third and a half of renting households say they struggle
to pay their rent each month. Yet they are fearful of voicing
concerns. Over 50,000 private renting households were put at risk of
eviction in 2016, and almost 20,000 private renting households were
evicted by bailiffs.
A government spokesman: "While the
number of homes failing to meet the Decent Homes Standard has gone
down since 2007, we know there's more to do."
Brexit Bill — Liberty Loss
Britons will lose their right to sue the government for breaking
the law over air pollution. At present an ECJ ruling enables
citizens to sue member states for damages if their rights are
infringed by a failure to implement EU law.
A proposal in the EU repeal bill would invalidate claims
against the government for failing to enforce EU air pollution
standards. At present the government is potentially liable under
what is known as the Francovich ruling.
A clause in the
repeal bill: "There is no right in domestic law on or after exit day
to damages in accordance with the rule in Francovich."
Liberty director Martha Spurrier: "Putting the government above the
law renders our legal protections meaningless. It exposes a clear
agenda to water down our rights after Brexit."
AR Strong state — cowed citizens
become bullets and bombs devotedly defending respected Supreme
Leader Comrade Kim Jong Un!"
Pyongyang, August 9
"They will be met with fire
and fury like the
has never seen"
Donald Trump, 2017
"They may expect a rain
from the air,
the like of which has
never been seen"
Harry Truman, 1945
Lofoten Links, Norway
lässt das deutsche
"To Irish republicans, Brexit
is a golden opportunity for
Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar
says Brexit is the challenge
our generation: "We will do all
we can, in Brussels, in London,
and in Dublin, to achieve the
best outcome for everyone
The Lovell radio telescope at
is 60 years old
Dow Jones index over
Apple valued at $827 billion
Ripples in Spacetime
Schilling, Martin Rees
The Laser Interferometer
(LIGO) was conceived decades
bankrolled by the NSF.
By 2015, about a thousand
working on the project, racking
up costs of more
than a billion
dollars. LIGO detected waves
from colliding black
2015 and announced the
discovery in 2016.
As an undergraduate at
Cambridge, Ramsey befriended
from German into English and
Cambridge. Ramsey proved his
theorem as a lemma
along the way to solving a
special case of
problem for first-order logic.
Ramsey died in 1930,
2017 August 10
Korea and the Kim dynasty are standing up to
a powerful and menacing foreign enemy. Nukes are needed to repel
this threat. Kim Jong Un is the anointed defender of all Koreans,
the purest of all races.
The NK regime plans to
use large numbers of nuclear weapons against US forces throughout
Japan and South Korea to blunt an invasion. NK leaders hope that by
inflicting mass casualties and destruction in the early days of a
conflict, they can force US-SK leaders to recoil from their
America has four broad options for dealing with
An all-out US-SK attack would defeat NK military forces and topple
the Kim dynasty. It would be the most massive US military attack
since the first Korean war and would likely trigger one of the worst
mass killings in human history. It would depend on surprise and
speed — but the Kim dynasty has been on the alert for three
generations. Even if the strike succeeded, it would cause the
largest humanitarian crisis of modern times.
Punishment. The US response to the next NK
provocation could be sharp enough to set back the regime but not
massive. Key to a limited strike is the pause that comes after. Kim
and his generals would have time to think. But once the shooting
starts, containing it may be difficult. Even if Kim did perceive
limited intent in a first strike, he would correctly see it as an
assault on his nuclear arsenal and a step on a road to regime
change. He would expect a wider war.
US and SK troops recently rehearsed a strike to remove the NK
wartime command structure. The US-SK war plan calls for strikes
targeting NK leaders. But decapitation would be a huge gamble.
4 Acceptance. There are
no good military options. Pyongyang is constrained by the same logic
that has stayed the use of nuclear arms for some 70 years. It is
hard to imagine Pyongyang disarming anytime soon, but creating a
framework that makes it conceivable is the only sensible way
2017 August 9
The New York Times
draft report by scientists from 13 US federal agencies, not yet
made public, concludes that the average temperature in the United
States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent
decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years.
report concludes that even if humans immediately stopped emitting
greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the world would still feel at
least an additional 0.3 K of warming over this century compared with
today. The projected actual rise will be 2 K.
directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his
cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is
uncertain. Scientists say they fear that the Trump administration
could change or suppress the report.
How The Moon Was Made
Some 4.5 Gy ago, the young
Sun was surrounded by a hot, donut-shaped cloud of debris. This
stuff swirled around, cooling and combining into clumps, then
planetesimals, then planets. These bodies frequently collided and
vaporized one another anew, until the Earth and the Moon were
Theia, a body the size of Mars, collided with Earth.
The collision produced a disk around the Earth that cooled and
solidified to form the Moon. Simulations show Theia could shear away
enough of Earth and scramble enough of both to build a Moon and
Earth with similar isotopic ratios.
Simon Lock and Sarah
Stewart say every bit of Earth and Theia vaporized and formed a
bagel-shaped cloud they call a synestia. The cloud spun so fast that
it became a fat disk circling an inner region. The fat disk was a
cloud of molten rock that eventually cooled to form the Moon.
The Moon is unique in the solar system in having about 1% the
mass of Earth and 80% of the angular momentum of the Earth—Moon
system. Perhaps the Moon was formed by at least a dozen projectiles
coming in from multiple angles and speeds to form moonlets that then merged.
North Korean Nukes
North Korea has successfully produced a
miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, says
a new analysis by the US Defense Intelligence Agency.
North Korean military threat is advancing rapidly. US officials say
Pyongyang is outpacing expectations in its effort to build an ICBM
capable of striking cities on the US mainland.
Ministry of Defense also concludes there is evidence to suggest that
North Korea has achieved miniaturization.
Taking Down Kim
It would be easy for the United States to
take out the entire North Korean leadership with a special
operations unit. The intelligence capability and the special ops
capability we have today is incredible. Most people have no idea how
effective we are at conducting these missions.
and special ops community constantly rehearse scenarios — Delta
Night Stalker helicopters could do a high altitude, high opening
parachute op from across the border of South Korea, and then fly
under the canopy, undetected — all sorts of scenarios.
Tories Holding Out for a Hero
Ruth Davidson is a gay kick-boxer from a Scottish comprehensive
who once praised Attlee socialism and now leads the Conservative
party in Scotland. Jacob Rees-Mogg went to Eton and Oxford, got rich
in the City, and is now a backbench Conservative MP. She backed
Remain, he backed Leave.
Both have more popularity within the
party than its leadership. Davidson regularly tops a monthly league
ConservativeHome. Rees-Mogg says he will not stand, but he would
have come second this month if he had. Scores of party members wrote
in his name when they responded.
2017 August 8
To Be Or Not To Be
A cognitive bias hinders our moral
cognition. The phenomenal states of sentient beings on Earth are
much more frequently characterized by suffering and frustration than
these beings can see for themselves.
Analyzing the facts, an
ethical superintelligence concludes that it should minimize
consciously experienced frustration, pain, and suffering. It knows
that no entity can suffer from its own nonexistence and that
naturally evolved biological creatures are unable to realize this
fact because of their firmly anchored existence bias. It decides to
There are no moral facts. We have evolved
desires, subjective preferences, and we experience interests.
Evolution made us efficient, but the overall process is blind to our
own interests. We have deep seated moral intuitions, for example
that pleasure is good and pain is bad.
superintelligence respects these moral intuitions and tries to find
an optimal way of making them consistent. But this does not imply
direct access to a mysterious realm of higher moral truths. It just
means that the system, given all available data, tries to find out
what is in our own best interest.
Maybe meditation or future
neurotechnology could help us to make our lives worth living.
Conceivably, it could help us in giving our lives a positive overall
balance, or even liberate us from the burden of our biological past.
But even if all the billions of human beings on this planet were
turned into vegan Buddhas, the problem of wild animal suffering
A fully rational superintelligence would never
have a problem with ending its own existence. But most human beings
could never accept any such insight, no matter how good the
arguments of their artificial moral reasoner were. Homo sapiens
would declare war against a compassionate anti-natalist
Human life is one big uphill battle. Yet
we will do almost anything to prolong our own existence, even if it
violates rationality constraints. This is a biological imperative
that has been burned into our nervous systems over millennia — the
Buddha called it the craving for existence.
AR Thomas seemed cheerier than this at
Joe Polchinski won the 2017
Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for transformative
advances in quantum field theory, string theory, and quantum
Polchinski, 63, has worked at the Kavli Institute
for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa
Barbara, for 25 years. He authored the seminal 1998 textbook
Polchinski: "The first thing to know is
that the two great theories of physics (quantum mechanics and
general relativity) work very well in most circumstances, but in
extremes like the beginning of the Big Bang we do not know how to
fit them together. Black holes are a great testing ground for this.
The firewall paradox seems to say that one of the two theories must
be modified, and that the result is that the black hole interior is
replaced by a wall of quantum bits."
If our Hubble bubble is bounded by a wall of qubits (recall
Maldacena, blog 2017-06-25) then it seems black holes must have
2017 August 7
The migrant crisis of the past few years has been a lesson in
the dangers of allowing heart to overrule head. From the German
welcome policy to the NGO boats searching the Mediterranean for
migrants to rescue, humanitarian compassion has escalated the
The line between refugees and economic migrants is
increasingly blurred. The top three home nations of those arriving
in Italy in the first quarter of this year were Nigeria, Bangladesh,
and Guinea. UN figures suggest that 7 in 10 who have come to Libya
are escaping poverty.
Most will sympathise with those who
yearn to escape poverty. But behind every one who makes it to Italy
are many more who are emboldened to set out on the same journey. The
most sensible strategy is to improve life in the poorest countries
and so weaken the desire to migrate.
Migrants know that once
rescued in the Mediterranean, passage to mainland Europe is assured.
The UN defines an asylum-seeker as anyone with a well-founded fear
of persecution in their own country. Smartphones let migrants learn
their rights under international law.
Development aid can be a good investment — better than buying
patrol warships that no sane government would allow to sink migrant
boats on sight.
2017 August 6
Machines of Loving Grace
Artificial intelligence and robotics research
is transforming our world. New machines will wipe out millions of
jobs. The Internet of Things is a whole new way for bad things to
AI systems have already infiltrated the military,
financial transactions, and the internet. We are now surrounded by
machines that in many ways are more competent than we are. A
high-end car runs with well over 100 million lines of computer code
— with more to come in self-driving cars.
Regardless of moral
and ethical concerns, Beijing proposes to lock everybody in China
into a social credit system by 2020. Algorithms will log and assess
all web user actions to calculate credit scores. Score high and
prosper, score low and despair.
Plans for robot nurses,
carers, and teachers often raise safety issues as acute as for cars.
Tell an AI carer always to do what is best for the patient and it
may well decide to kill them. Program them not to kill people and
they may simply decide we are wrong.
Silicon Valley believers
say we will engineer the Singularity. A super-intelligent machine
will make itself ever more intelligent and solve all our problems.
If we avoid catastrophe we can enter a kind of paradise watched over
machines of loving grace.
2017 August 5
Memo to Mike Pence
You occupy an unusual position in the
American constitution. You are the only member of the executive
branch whom Donald Trump cannot fire. You do not serve at the
pleasure of the president.
Start acting like a potential successor. It will let you emerge as a
leader not hopelessly tainted by your origin story. Put meaningful
distance between yourself and Trump. Act with the deliberation and
integrity and dignity of a president.
Do not allow an administration unrivaled in its mendacity to make a
liar out of you. Refuse to make any factual representations to the
American people that you have not independently verified and are not
prepared to stand behind.
Reaffirm, wherever possible, your commitment to and faith in all of
our three branches of government.
Study the example of Gerald Ford, who became president with the
resignation of Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974.
Memo to Theresa May
In October I will sit around the European Council table with 26
other prime ministers and we will decide together whether sufficient
progress has been made to allow the Brexit negotiations to proceed.
I do not underestimate the challenge.
If the United Kingdom does not want to stay in the customs union,
perhaps there can be an EU-UK customs union.
2 If the UK does not want to stay in the
single market perhaps it could enter into a deep free trade
agreement with the EU and rejoin EFTA, of which it was a member
prior to accession.
3 And if this
cannot be agreed now, then perhaps we can have a transition period
during which the UK stays in the single market and customs union
while these things are worked out.
These are the practical
solutions I am proposing.
The Next Big Thing
Apple augmented reality will launch next month
with the latest version of iOS for iPhones and iPads. ARKit
technology turns a combination of computer vision, tracking sensors,
and mapping software into something that can be incorporated into
Apple could become the first American business to be
valued above $1 trillion. But it is 10 years since the launch of the
first iPhone. The company faces speculation about where to go next.
Apple has begun to place bets on a wide range of markets. A
pair of AR glasses might move cameras, sensors, and screens from the
smartphone to the face. Apple is experimenting with prototypes.
Apple designers and engineers are content to wait for the right
moment to launch a new product. They can move quickly when the
moment arrives. App developers say AR could become the next big
computing platform after smartphones.
is next — see GOD
2017 August 4
Brexit Referendum 2
Britain is negotiating for a free trade
agreement in a hard Brexit. A trade agreement would probably have to
be ratified unanimously by the European Council, by a majority in
the European Parliament, and by 27 national and 11 regional
The June election result reopens the issue of
Europe for four reasons:
is probably no Commons majority for a hard Brexit. There is probably
a stronger representation of Remain MPs in parliament today than
before the election.
gains raise the question of whether the decision in the 2016
referendum is final. A study found the Labour soft Brexit policy lay
behind its big gain in votes. The election was the revenge of the
3 The election
intensifies internal divisions in both major parties. If the deal is
too hard, Conservative Remainers may join with their opposition
counterparts to defeat it, too soft and Tory hardliners could reject
it. There may be no majority for any form of Brexit on offer.
4 The House of Lords may reject hard
Brexit, saying a minority government has no mandate for it.
With a deadlocked parliament, the possibility of a bad deal, and
both parties deeply divided on Europe, the best way out may be a
second referendum. Brexit raises existential issues for the future
of the UK. The final deal needs the consent not only of parliament,
but of a sovereign people.
people wanted Brexit: You can't always get what you want — Mick
Theresa May set out the hard Brexit policy
of leaving the customs union and the single market in January.
Before then, the working Whitehall assumption had been the UK would
seek to stay in both, like Norway or Switzerland.
customs union and the single market requires the UK by March 2019 to
negotiate new trade treaties with the EU27 and with the 75
other nations with which the EU has trade
agreements. These 102 countries account for more than
60% of UK exports of goods and services.
British trade is
already global — helped, not hindered, by being part of the EU
customs union. There are a few large markets with which the EU does
not have trade agreements. The new Department for International
Trade (DIT) is building up its negotiating capacity from scratch.
AR No deals mean barriers at the
borders — FUK.
Yuval Noah Harari
Some time before the ninth century CE,
a script was invented to store and process mathematical data with
unprecedented efficiency. This partial script, composed of numerals
from 0 to 9, was invented by Hindus and promoted by Arabs. The basis
for modern mathematics came into being.
This system of
writing has become the world's dominant language. Almost all states,
companies, organizations, and institutions use mathematical script
to record and process data. A person who wishes to influence their
big decisions must learn to speak in numbers.
now given us a script consisting of only 0 and 1. Our computers have
trouble understanding our minds, so we are learning to talk, feel,
and dream in the language of computers. A new kind of intelligence
is emerging, based solely on bits.
When I find myself in times of trouble, mathematics comes to
2017 August 3
War Against North Korea
US Republican Lindsey Graham quoted Donald Trump as saying
"there will be a war with North Korea if they continue to try to hit
America" with an ICBM: "He has told me that. I believe him .. If
there's going to be a war .. it will be over there. If thousands
die, they're going to die over there."
Brexit Reveals UK Flaws
Brexit is being mismanaged. More than a year
after the referendum, the cabinet still cannot agree on what kind of
Brexit it wants, or when. HMS UK is steaming toward yet another
Brexit reveals three enduring flaws in UK
1 Running a country
on rhetoric. Brexit was made about 30 years ago at the Oxford Union
— Oxford university's version of a children's parliament, which
organises witty debates, and where future Brexiteers such as Boris
Johnson and Michael Gove were presidents. In Britain, humour is used
to cut off conversations before they can get emotional, boring, or
technical. Tasking Brexiteers with managing Brexit was like asking
the winners of a debating contest to engineer a spaceship.
2 Ruling class insularity. The present
cabinet of mostly former public schoolboys don't want Brussels
running Britain. That's their caste's prerogative. Because the
referendum skated over boring policy stuff, cabinet ministers are
discovering only now the UK will pay the EU a large divorce bill.
3 Delusions of grandeur. Britain
became a great power because it pioneered the fossil-fuel economy
and because being an island was excellent protection when states
still invaded each other. Neither advantage exists any more. Britain
today is like a cute little bonobo ape that thinks it's a gorilla.
The updated strategy is America First, Britain Second — praying that
Donald Trump will reward fealty with a sweetheart trade deal.
Britain ignores its genuine strengths. Almost all its clever
people are mere spectators at the Brexit slapstick. Westminster
insularity had previously enabled the financial crisis. The ruling
rhetoricians treated the City as a magic money tree, until in 2007
the tree fell down and hit the country.
AR Some nice rhetoric there.
Mit Abgas in den Abgrund
Autohersteller sind angeschlagen, ihre Diesel-Verkäufe sinken
dramatisch. Mit dem Gipfel sollte hektisch Vertrauen zurückgewonnen
werden, doch das Gegenteil ist der Fall. So ist die Branche dem
AR Uups — ich
fahre ein BMW Diesel-Auto.
2017 August 2
The New York Times
The Trump administration's approach to the North Korean nuclear threat is
failing. It was all about putting the responsibility on China to
force the North to abandon its program.
China has held back. The Chinese fear
the NK regime could
collapse, sending millions of refugees fleeing across the border and
effectively handing power over the peninsula to US ally South Korea.
The Trump administration has not given up on China. But
sanctions alone are not the answer. Some experts suggest an NK nuclear and missile
freeze in return for limits on
US-SK military exercises.
The administration awaits a "tangible signal" that
NK will abandon its nuclear
program before talks begin. This is not realistic. Talks should
begin without preconditions.
It could be worth a trillion dollars to resolve this peacefully.
Terrorism is seen for the first time
as the most important issue facing the EU.
Trust in the EU and in national parliaments and
governments has increased.
Europeans trust the EU more than
national parliaments and governments.
● 4 in 10 Europeans have a
positive image of the EU
● 2 in 10 have a negative
image of the EU.
● More than 4 in 10 Europeans
consider that their voice counts in the EU.
● More than half of Europeans
disagree that their voice counts in the EU.
● Well over half of Europeans
are optimistic about the future of the EU.
● Absolute majorities of
Europeans support EU priorities and common policies.
● More than 8 in 10
respondents are in favor of free movement of EU citizens.
● More than two-thirds support
a common European policy on migration.
● 6 in 10 are for European
economic and monetary union and a single currency.
● In the EZ nearly
support the euro.
Absolute majorities of Europeans feel
attached to the EU and to Europe.
More than two-thirds of
Europeans feel they are citizens of the EU.
AR The UK is down with Greece and
Hungary in the national breakdowns.
A UK collaboration has built a quantum
gravimeter that uses cold atoms to make precise measurements of
gravitational field strength. It could be used to survey for oil or
minerals, and it may be the start of a new market for quantum
The gravimeter senses subtle changes in the strength
of ambient gravitational fields. It holds clouds of rubidium atoms
in superposition in a vacuum chamber cooled to 80 microkelvin. To
make a measurement, it drops them and zaps them in free fall with
three laser pulses. These produce an interference pattern encoding
the position and paths of the clouds.
Two atom clouds falling
at different speeds would indicate a change in the density of the
ground below, for example due to the presence of oil or minerals.
Quantum effects are sensitive, so the device must be carefully
shielded and cooled.
Glasgow photonics company M Squared
founder and CEO Graeme Malcolm: "I think we're just at the early
stage of commercial adoption of quantum technologies."
AR My essay on quantum theory is on hold
as I study QFT.
2017 August 1
Eurasia This Century
Republic of China and the European Union are the leading political
agents on Earth for global organization. China's road and belt
strategy and the EU vision of a federalized Europe centered on
Germany are the most promising steps in the direction of developing
an integrated social and business model across the supercontinent,
from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts.
America can be part
of this vision only after the US experiment with populist democracy
has run its course and the US global hegemony has been replaced by a
more globalist strategic order. A joint push from China and Europe
can nudge Russia into reforms that help it support wider order. A
Eurasian order can subsume Islam and other traditions in a social
Science is the enabler for the new vision.
A scientific view of the universe and the emergence of life is a
backdrop to a view of human duty as to ensure that the human
footprint on Earth properly reflects the glory we wish to associate
with our memory as deep time swallows up the human legacy. Due
respect for science and measured cultivation of technology express
The globalist vision will center on planetary
management for human flourishing in a sustainable environment. Big
business corporations will share the vision as a precondition for
long term success as providers of specialist services on a global
scale. The legal and regulatory environment will claim global scope
and seek to integrate outlier regimes as harmoniously as possible.
Globorg Is Great!
Borders of Infinity
Keita Yokoyama and Ludovic Patey have proved a
major statement about the finite-infinite divide. The boundary separates two
kinds of mathematical statements: finitistic ones, which can be
proved without invoking infinity, and infinitistic ones, which
presume that infinite objects exist.
understanding this division is at the heart of mathematical logic.
It leads directly to questions of mathematical objectivity, the
meaning of infinity, and the relationship between mathematics and
The new proof settles a question about Ramsey's Theorem for pairs —
RT22 is finitistically reducible. The argument in RT22 can be
used to prove new facts in finitistic mathematics.
Imagine an infinite set of objects, such as the set of all natural
numbers. Now pair each object in the set one by one with all other
objects. Color each pair of objects either red or blue according to
some rule. When you are done, RT22 states that at least one of the
(all red or all blue) subsets will be infinite (color can be any
We are now free to use this result to prove
statements in finitistic mathematics. All the finitistic
consequences of RT22 are guaranteed to be provable in a finitistic
Frank Ramsey used infinitistic methods to
partition infinite sets at will. David Hilbert challenged us to prove that set theory and all of infinitistic mathematics is
finitistically reducible, and therefore trustworthy. Then Kurt Gödel
proved that no system of logical axioms powerful enough to include
elementary arithmetic can ever prove its own consistency, so to
prove that a system of logic is consistent, you need another axiom
from outside the system — end of Hilbert's program.
and Yokoyama showed that RT22 is equal in logical strength to
primitive recursive arithmetic, and therefore finitistically
reducible. They modeled the infinite (red or blue) set of pairs in
RT22 using a finite set whose elements are nonstandard models of the
natural numbers. They then translated the question of the strength
of RT22 into the size of the finite set in their model.
Numerous finitistic statements about natural numbers are now known
to be expressible in primitive recursive arithmetic. They are thus
certain to be logically consistent.